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 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:
“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.”
“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.
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?