Written in a moment of inspiration, this blog post contains four anecdotes about my nieces and nephews. It will be lovely if you can take a few minutes to live the innocence in these incidents. The language and syntax is simple so that you can read it to children and help them understand a few abstract words that are important values in actuality; they become graspable and relatable when explained in context. The best learnings happen when a grownup learns with children.
Learning, Imagination with Shaurya, Thoughtfulness with Isabel, Acceptance with Vidur, Gratitude with Maya.
A little boy came running into the veranda where I was watching the wonder of the skies. Thunder and lightning followed a rainbow that had coloured an otherwise grey evening. He had in his hands a bucket filled with sea creatures.
They were fake; they were not actually real and so I wasn’t afraid. I would have been had they come from the sea and not from a toy shop, because in the bucket were fish much larger and stronger than I—a shark and a blue whale. There was also a creature bulkier than I—a walrus, and another resident of the sea that I wasn’t afraid of, a dolphin. I had seen one breach, it had jumped out of the water and dived back in, a delightful sight indeed.
Oh, do look up these sea creatures and ask your papa or mama, or your dad and mom, to tell you about how big they are and about what they eat, and where they live in the oceans and seas of our wonderful Planet Earth.
The little boy, whose name is Shaurya, told me that the blue whale was in his bathtub. And I said, “The largest creature on the whole planet is in your bathtub, wow!” His eyes gleamed at the thought. This is what is called imagination.
A little girl and I walked on the beach. She swung her arm back and forth, and with her arm moved mine, because our fingers were intertwined. Our bare feet sank gladly in the soft sand, feeling the coolness of the night and the early winter morning in the tiny sand particles that slipped off our feet, and the few that remained on our skin.
Up to the waterline we went, where others were collecting garbage that people had thrown into the sea. The others there gave us each a pair of gloves and we began to collect garbage too. The little girl, Isabel is her name, with small hands tucked inside large gloves, picked what she could and put it on the garbage pile that was starting to look like a hill.
Isabel asked, “Why is there so much garbage in the sea.” I replied that we buy many things and they come in boxes and bags that we do not use, we then throw these boxes and bags that are sometimes burned, sometimes buried, and sometimes tossed in the sea. Then she asked, “Should we buy less things so that there is less garbage in the sea, because the sea creatures must find it yucky?” I smiled, “We must buy only what we really need and what we need is not too much. Next time, you can choose which toys to buy and not ask for every toy that looks nice.” She nodded and said, “That’s what I will do.” This is what is called thoughtfulness.
Another little boy, by the name Vidur, had large, crocodile tears, rolling down his tanned cheeks. His eyes were sad as we sat to eat his favourite thin-crust Pizza Margherita and large, gooey, chocolate-chip cookies. I asked him why, but he said not a word. His sister then whispered that he wanted a race track that he was told he could not have. We finished our dinner without much talk and returned home.
Next day, it was my turn to say not a word. I took Vidur to the toy shop, Hamleys they call it. I said we were there to buy a present for another little boy. He smiled sweetly and we began our search for a present. He didn’t once ask for the race track. But little did he know what was coming his way, a surprise that his sister and I had planned.
While Vidur and I searched for a nice present, his sister went and brought the race track to the cash counter. With Vidur’s hand in mine, I led him to where she was. We paid for the race track and I gave it to Vidur and said, “Take care of it and don’t lose the parts, so that you can gift it to someone else when you are done playing with it. Think about who you could give it to.” He nodded and said, “Thank you. I will give it to Raghav, before I go back home (to California).” This is what is called acceptance.
There’s one more little girl that I must tell you about. A long time back, fifteen years to be precise, sat Maya in her chair that was shaped like a bear. That’s right, a big brown bear and she sat in its lap, snug and cosy while watching her favourite cartoon. I walked in and kneeled beside her. A pack of stickers in my hand, I said, “Here Maya, this is for you.”
Maya loved to make art but she was too little to draw the many things she saw, so she would fill her art book with beautiful stickers. She looked at the stars and the moon and the butterflies and flowers in the pack of stickers, and with gleeful eyes and a wide smile said, “This is for me! Thank you, thank you so much.” This is what is called gratitude.
When you use your thoughts to create a great story, where all creatures together come, know that imagination is doing good stuff in your head. When you observe and wonder, and do things that make others comfortable without making yourself too uncomfortable, know that thoughtfulness is teaching you to care. When you are sad and you cry, but then you let go and move on, know that acceptance is showing you the way to happiness. When your heart smiles and says thank you for the smallest of things, know that joy has arrived, and joy and gratitude move together as one.
Thank you to all children for being such wonderful teachers and learners.