Twelve years ago I was just this married guy who enjoyed life. It was good. Really good. I didn’t think about world peace anymore, as I’d outgrown that concept. I mostly cared about what I could get out of life. It was all about me.
Then we had a child.
And when she arrived, everything changed. And I don’t mean just because I had to start changing diapers. Or because we started accumulating bulky, brightly-colored plastic toys that littered our house. I mean because I started caring about things differently. Before the child, I was very tactical in terms of how I used my time. I was selfish. And why not? After the child, I started noticing how time slipped through my fingers despite my best attempts to stop it. I was still selfish, but for different reasons.
The child grew and changed and nearly twelve years later our daughter has gone from a wrinkly little lump of mass to a beautiful girl. And during that time I’ve had the privilege of being privy to her change from pure innocence to the verge of a total awakening.
It’s beautiful. And heartbreaking.
This week while driving her to soccer practice, I played the song, “One Day” by Matisyahu. I thought she’d heard it before, but it turned out she hadn’t. Afterward, she lowered the volume and said, “That was a really pretty song. Can we hear it again?” And so we did. During the second time through, I listened to the words carefully. I also noticed my daughter staring off into the distance–this beautiful child who is still filled with some wonder and hope about the world.
It made me think about how it was when I was 11, and how the world was still this amazing mystery where anything was possible. Even the idea of world peace.
After the song finished for the second time, I said to her, “Maybe it will be like that for your children.”
She then looked at me and said through a forced smile, “Or their children.”
If you have children, please don’t let them to grow up too fast. The transition from innocence to experience happens quickly enough. Especially when ‘reality’ is as close as a Google search. Rather, let your children dream about peace and beauty and hope. Let them believe that they are lightning rods for global change. Because when we stop believing, we start accepting the world as a cold place that is too complicated for simple, sweeping concepts like peace, and beauty, and love.
Jim Mitchem – for the record, we are blessed with two daughters. Our oldest, pictured here, and our youngest who is nine. In a decade, they’ll both be gone from us–leading their own lives in what I can only hope is a more peaceful world than it is now.