I enjoy outings with my granddaughters and teaching them things. However there are times I find I learn something valuable from THEM. The girls and I went shopping for a birthday gift for their mom (we picked out a handbag) and I bought Rosannah and Briannah matching Easter dresses. In fact each outfit had corresponding clothes for their dolls. Maybe it’s a grandma thing but I like to buy things that match. The coordinating doll outfits were probably a bit much, but Jackie and Rainbow (the girl’s dolls) needed some new duds.
After our hard work of infusing a few bucks into Arizona’s retail economy we went to the indoor kiddy playground at the mall. As I sat down I spied one mom who sat silently and seemed a bit depressed. I wanted to go over and talk to her, but chose not to. I didn’t want to take a chance that any friendliness I offered would be rejected.
Instead I picked my spot where I had a good vantage point of where I could watch my granddaughters enjoy some indoor fun. There were probably six kids in the play area and they all ran around and played nicely together – except for the occasional mid-run collision. At one point the kids decided one of the little boys was a monster and they fled from him. At first the little guy seemed satisfied with his role. He would occasionally emit a roar and the kids would disperse, screaming and flailing their arms like the IRS man was beckoning at the door. However, after a while I think he wanted to return to his identity as a harmless, little boy.
“Use your imagination to save yourself,” I replied.
I have never been fond of the whole damsel in distress routine. She gave me a few excuses about how her magic wand was broken, but when she realized I was not going to provide salvation she came up with a plan. She approached the little boy.
“Here is a sandwich. If you eat it you won’t be a monster anymore.”
The little tot ate the imaginary meal and instantly changed back into a little boy. He and Briannah played on the toys and seemed to enjoy themselves. When they approached the other children (who were unaware of the monster’s transformation) they started to flee. However, Briannah emphatically told them he had eaten a magic sandwich and was no longer a monster. She had to reiterate her position a couple times, but finally the children were convinced and the little boy rejoined the group as a child and not an ogre.
As the children played I looked over and noticed the little boy’s mom was smiling.
I think it is one thing to be able to ingratiate yourself with a group of strangers, but I think it is quite a brave and compassionate act to ensure another person is accepted as well. I recently read an excerpt from an interview with Daisaku Ikeda, president of the Soka Gakai International and Alastair Thompson, co-founder, editor and publisher of Scoop Independent News in New Zealand. Here is a passage I admire from President Ikeda.
“I believe that our most urgent challenge is to foster a social ethos that can keep people from being swept up in a collective psychologies and violent agitation. I believe that a spirit of empathy based on our sense of the universal dignity of life should be the foundation for such an ethos.”
Obviously Briannah, who is only 4 years old, did not read this article, but she followed the principle when she encouraged cooperation and not condemnation of the little monster in diapers. Her concern and compassion validated Ikeda’s statement that “It is incorrect to say that war or any other violent behavior is genetically programmed into our human nature.” Briannah used her imagination and stuck to her guns when the “herd” wanted to see a monster where a little boy stood. The children only resisted a little at first, then they allowed the child to unshackle himself from his scary role. But someone had to instigate change. I’m proud that person was my little granddaughter, but we all have the power to do something similar in our daily lives.
In the article with Pres. Ikeda the Buddhist leader and humanitarian went on to say that “…it is crucial to remind ourselves not to pursue our own happiness at the expense of the happiness of others, to prevent our own desire to be empowered and effective from threatening the lives and dignity of others.”
I believe most of us want to do the right thing and be kind, compassionate and consider the happiness of others, but sometimes we get distracted or fear rejection. This is what happened to me when I reasoned against engaging in a conversation with the monster/boy’s mother.
President Ikeda suggests three words to help remind us to foster our compassion - determination, faith and vow. The word “vow” is essential as it suggests a deeply-willed commitment, rooted in an appreciation of the dignity of life. He goes on to say “This determination is essential to resist the negative currents of society and build enduring bastions of peace and harmonious coexistence.”
My outing with my granddaughters is a small example of how small, daily acts of compassion can contribute to making our world a happier place. By making one small decision (and sticking to it) Briannah freed a monster from his shackles, made a friend, paved the way for the tyke’s acceptance into the group, brought a smile to a mom’s face and made her grandmother very proud. Now if we can all follow Pres. Ikeda’s advice (and Briannah’s example) we can create the perfect match for a happier and peaceful world.
If you are interested in learning how to become more optimistic, please check out my book, Erase Negativity at www.EraseNegativity.com. To read more about Pres. Ikeda and his writings visit www.sgi-usa.org.