There’s a certain kind of person that’s wonderful to be around. The kind of person who, when life hands them lemons, they make lemonade.
They possess a quality: resilience. It’s a powerful gift. Some of us don’t come by it naturally, but I’m hoping (and praying) we can practice it til it becomes as nearly natural as possible.
My inspiration for this comes from a tiny moment I was fortunate to witness, from over thirty-five years ago.
I was a preschool teacher at a little school outside Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the early ’80’s. And the person who glowed with this quality of resilience was….
…three years old.
I witnessed an interaction with this little boy, whose nickname was Tug. He was very a very sweet and happy child.
One afternoon, he was confronted by an older boy, perhaps five or so. I remember this other boy was a troubled child, with a difficult family situation. We did our best to love him and support him, but he was struggling. I overheard him talking to Tug.
He said disdainfully, “That’s a BABY shirt you’re wearing!” (The worst insult to a young child is to call them a baby.)
I was ready to step in to cushion and defuse the situation. But Tug beat me to it.
He bubbled with laughter and glee, completely disarming the older boy.
“It is! It is! It is a baby shirt!” he chortled. “I’ve had it since I was a baby!!”
He was filled with innocence and joy. He was totally oblivious to the malicious intent. And the intended hurt rolled right off him.
The other boy was completely baffled and stymied by his response. He walked away, confused and defused.
And I was dumbfounded. What a lesson to me!
The older I get, the more I know this: The people who cause me pain and distress in my life? It’s rarely about me. It’s about them.
When we are whole and healthy, the “slings and arrows” slung at us by unhappy people cannot hurt us. When we are pure of heart and full of joy, we cannot be stung by the hurtful comments of hurting people.
And when I’m feeling fragile, or insecure, or vulnerable, that’s when those barbs get through.
When I am feeling open and confident, whole and healthy? I see clearly that they are acting out of their own pain and anguish. I’m simply a willing target, if I “pick it up.”
It’s not easy to avoid, and I still fall for it.
But I still remember that moment. I still remember that precious little boy. He would be 33 this year, at least. I still think of him with amazement, with love, and with gratitude.
Wherever he is, I hope he has kept that blessed innocence and joy in his heart. He taught me, his teacher, as much as I ever could have hoped to teach him.