Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Unconditional is good
My good friend, L-girl, informed her almost-seven-year-old son, K-boy, that she, he and me we're about to have one of our traditional Sunday outings (e.g., go eat Mexican food/then feed the ducks in the park/then go get ice cream). His response was priceless:
"I love Nictate! I wouldn't change a single thing about her."
I was instantly charmed by the innocent sentiment and my day had been made. But as the week went on, his statement kept echoing in my head. Of course, what he'd said was adorable and flattering, but why did it keep tapping my shoulder for attention? Then I realized why. Because it was totally unconditional, uncensored, unselfish, and, thus, totally unfamiliar in the topsy-turvy, metropolitan adult world I've been rattling around in of late.
After that insight, I started to reflect on how much of life is full of judgment and criticism—even in mundane moments, like the stranger who honks impatiently when he thinks you're taking too long to turn right. Or in the old familiarity-breeds-contempt scenario, when a grumpy mate growls about you doing that little thing he or she hates. Schools, governments and corporations further serve to identify and eliminate our flaws in the name of the greater good.
Sure, you can tune the incremental nit-picking out, but it wears on a soul over time, like tiny little tears on a seam. And that's not even counting our inner critics, who seem to be assigned to us for lifelong gigs by the time we're old enough to know what "no" means.
This morning, before hitting the snooze button for the third time, I heard something on NPR that caught my ear. A sound bite from the venerable, late Mr. Rogers, played in honor of the 40th anniversary of the first nationwide broadcast of his beloved kids' show. The video above includes the sound bite NPR played. Funny how nicely it aligns with the refreshing open-heartedness of an almost-seven-year-old's take on friendship.
In this official goodbye to fans, Mr. Rogers says: "I like you just the way you are."
What a gigantic gift given in eight little words.
May we all get to be liked like that.