It was a few days ago that I gave a student a hug, and told her I loved her when she turned and asked,
“Why do you always tell me you love me?
I was a bit taken aback. I mean kids generally love to be loved. I have devoted blogs to this subject. This question had been ticked off my list. But her question made me rethink, and I love questions that make me think.
I thought about how easy it is to love kids. How their default position is happiness. Given the right conditions, opportunities to play, explore and grow, kids are happy. I can’t tell you how many times as a teacher, I have had to step back and observe a playground altercation waiting to see if I need to intervene, but most of the time the feelings of animosity are fleeting, and in moments children become bored of the effort it takes to be upset, and I am left watching the empty space their happy giggles occupy.
But adults, we are different, no? We have devoted millions to construct an industry of happiness: books, cards, websites, tweets, posts, pins and memes all remind us, teach us, and inspire us to be happy. My Facebook feed and Twitter is littered with commands for good vibes, love and friendship.
How exactly did it get so hard?
I had a bunch of time today to think. I thought about my student's question and rolled it around like a lost marble in my mind. I was interested in where it would end up. Motherhood? Instinct? Teachers? Innocence? Ethics? Faith? Culture?…
What was it that made me say I love you, and mean it?
I suppose, for me there is one meditation that centers me no matter how far my marbles wander. Every single living thing is made from the atoms of dead stars. In this infinite universe, each one of us shares the building blocks that generated life. We all share that foundation. So, when I look at another person, I see a mirror of me, and me a mirror of them. If we are all connected, life becomes expansive pushing far beyond the boundaries of family, culture or faith- And that expansiveness simultaneously connects and humbles us so that we might see that love can be infinite.
True, children are easy to love, and it is easy to let it leak out and paint them with words and hugs, but perhaps some of that love should splash back to us. Perhaps, if we learn to love our adult-selves, the mirror we hold up will be easier to look at. After all, it is hard not to be happy when you are loved.
This post is a short reflection, but the call to action still rings true. Take some time be happy with yourself today, let animosity go, and love all those around you for the simple reason that they are connected to you, bound by star stuff.