In a few days you’ll be 17 months old.
In such a short time you have taught everyone in your orbit some very important lessons: the relief found in the bottom of a full bottle, the rejuvenating power of a long nap and the soul-lifting joy of a wet, slobbery raspberry kiss on the belly.
Now it’s time for me as your Papa to share two equally vital truisms:
Lesson #1: I am not a grumpy old man, no matter what your Nana, mother, aunt or anyone else claims. I certainly have my moments of impatience, intolerance and general frustration, however, at heart I truly believe in the inherent goodness of most people.
And Lesson #2: many of the people you will meet in life are inconsiderate and thoughtless about the world around them. This disappoints me terribly and sometimes makes me very grumpy indeed.
Thankfully, you’re too young yet to know about this aggravation, much less deal with it. But, sure as the sun rises you will, at some point run face-first into someone else’s lack of concern for your own well-being.
It will sting. How can it not? After all, you are (and I trust you will continue to be) a kind-hearted soul. Thankfully, you have not yet suffered the irritation of those who flit myopically like so many gnats, around and in and out of your eyes and nose and ears.
With little regard for anything else, they selfishly follow only their own path, fulfilling only their own needs, the impact of their actions on you only a fleeting thought in hindsight if at all.
This sounds so bad, I know. It breaks my heart because it’s so disappointing every time it happens. And it happens a lot.
From something as seemingly innocuous as the person who plays their music at 11:30 at night when people are trying to sleep, to those who litter, dirtying up our common shared spaces, when garbage cans are only a few feet away.
And then there are the more serious infractions: the violations of your trust, loyalty, heart and spirit – but we’ll wait until you’re in your teens to discuss those.
No, Papa is not a grumpy old man. I just want people to be aware of those around them and to understand, respect and appreciate that we all exist together. That we all have value. That all our lives are significant and meaningful.
I make a concerted effort to think about how my actions will affect the people around me. Family, friends, coworkers, even strangers. I remember, and seriously consider that everyone in my life may and can and will be touched somehow by what I think, say and do.
I am not perfect. Not by a long shot. Heck, I couldn’t see perfection from where I stand even with the Hubble telescope.
Still, is it so much to ask people to just be considerate?
Of course, it is impossible to always think about the ripples every little thing you do and say will cause in someone else’s pond.
Sometimes one simply must act in one’s own best interests.
This is especially true for anyone who has been oppressed and repressed in our society which has made (and continues to make) oppression and repression a national sport. That means women, people of color, immigrants, etc.
Everyone deserves the chance for equality, and sometimes equality demands and requires a self-focused (not to mention self-righteous) fight.
Yet even in that regard, fighting for your individual rights can and often does help others slogging through the same mud.
Like so much in life, this can be confusing. We live in a world of grays. Anyone who says everything is either “black or white” just doesn’t want to do the work necessary to consider other perspectives.
Which is really the point.
I wrote another story about the need for “empathy” – the ability to understand other people’s feelings. But before you can understand them you must first acknowledge that they exist and deserve your understanding.
If you do that my sweet girl, if you consider and care about how your life intersects with and impacts others, the world will be a better place for you being in it.
And your Papa will have one less thing to be grumpy about.