O is for Openness

500 Words On….Openness.

Last fall, while walking into a department store, we encountered an employee in the vestibule, cleaning leaves that had been blown in by a gusty and playful wind.

“Hi!” Annalise greeted, enthusiastically, and the young woman looked up with a perplexed expression.

The impression I had was that she was so used to being seen as merely part of the landscape that she was a bit shocked to be greeted so cheerfully by a little girl.

That happens a lot. Both Jeremiah and Annalise enjoy meeting people and sharing their joy with them. They will happily chatter with anyone who proves a decent conversationalist, and will try to soften up those who seem to have hard places in their souls, where children are concerned.

They are good friends with several of the cashiers and stockers at our preferred grocery store, the YMCA, and our mailman, Mark, who they will drop just about anything to go meet at the mailbox.

They also have many friends who are children. Cousins, and local friends, and other friends liberally sprinkled across the Northeast part of the United States. They may see these friends only once a year at large gatherings, and they look very forward to those times. Their child friends range in age from toddlers to teens, and encompass differing lifestyles, religions, learning paths, abilities, and colors. Jeremiah has online friends as far away as Japan.

They are always open to making a new friend, or many new friends.

I have noticed, though, that many people, adults and children alike, are much more closed.

Some adults only want to talk with children according to a script they have subconsciously created:

“How old are you?”

“What grade are you in?”

“What’s your favorite subject?”

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“Is your mommy buying that for you?”

The child’s role in that type of “conversation” is simply to give expected answers to those questions, without giving more embellishment than the adult wants.

These types of scripts fail miserably with Jeremiah and Annalise. They usually are willing to share their ages – but then they often add something like, “…and I love anime!” or “and did you know we’re mostly made of water?”

The questions after that, though can utterly short-circuit the script. “I’m not in a grade.” Or “Mommy, what grade would I be in?” or simply “I don’t go to school.”

Then will come the “Oh, so you’re homeschooled?” as the adult settles on a new script.

“No, unschooled!” And, often, more of the cool things they’ve learned lately, or stuff we’ve done.

With children, there seems to be an invisible barrier, sometimes. If a child isn’t familiar from school or the neighborhood, often other kids will either ignore their friendly greetings, or begin to tease.

Openness is, I feel, essential to understanding each other. Understanding each other is key to creating peace.

Openness doesn’t seem to be particularly valued in our society…..but, maybe, people like my children are helping to change that…..

How do you engage children you don’t know, or do you basically ignore them? Do you attempt to see the world as they do? Are you open to interacting with children as people, or do you use scripts?

One comment

  1. I love this post and you are so right. Openness is a valuable commodity. I’m from a part of the South that is truly open. In fact, the farther north I travel, the more closed people seem to become. And you’re right….while I practice the same inquisitiveness as your children, some people are startled by it, and it usually takes repeated inquires to get them to open up.

Take a chance! Type something in this box, and see what happens! =D

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.