The neighbors were having a gathering the other day, and all of the families had at least one child in the range of 6 – 16 years. Our little Schmee is only a couple months into being 4, so I was cautiously optimistic about how he would fit in with the group. He, however, felt confident that his wooden sword (a Vitamix stir stick circa 1980) would help his cause.
We’ve been in the neighborhood for only a few months now, so the activity has been quite subdued. The neighbors warned us about all the play activity that would start up as soon as school let out for the summer. Apparently a group of children, eight of them and counting and all boys, take over the neighborhood, marching the younger children in pick-up boot camp, fending off evil monsters and bad guys and generally keeping mayhem at bay.
What struck me most about this gathering was not necessarily the awesome food (these people can cook!), nor was it the feeling of being amongst old friends. It was the pure joy of watching a group of children with such a wide age range amongst them treat each other with respect. It was also the joy of being among adults who showed their respect not only for each other but for all the children, as well.
Sometimes we think of children as not being able to show compassion, understanding and empathy towards one another, and yet this group of children proved that presumption wrong. It’s no wonder that these children could play for hours on end with little to no arguing. They had superb role models: parents who really listened. And when there was something that needed worked out they helped the children talk through it. No blame was cast. No assumptions were made. So, when the children found themselves at odds and by themselves they, too, were able to listen to each other, talk about and solve the challenge at hand.
Does this really happen all the time? Was it just by chance I caught this glimpse of hope? I don’t know but I will say that Schmee found his niche. Among all the high-tech gadgets and gear the older boys had, it was Schmee’s “sword” that was the envy of the evening. It could have been the honesty that Schmee brought with him that allowed the other children to show him respect. It could have been the parents who show only the utmost care and interest for others. It could have been the delicious food. Most likely it was a combination of all these things and more that led to such positive relationships being developed.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – that is to have succeeded,” and that seems fitting here. Perhaps if we could show others some respect, treat them with dignity, we might be better off for future generations. Why not start today, with our children?