Most important conversations in my family occur during dinner. This one did too. While telling us the ‘highs and lows’ of his day, Ryan’s face fell and those sparkly eyes darkened.
“I had a very low time today. I felt bad about it for most part of the day”. He said.
We waited quietly for him to continue.
“Some friends called me dim and not smart like them because I don’t belong to the high level of math that they do. I only work on grade level!’
He must have seen my face because he quickly said to me, “Its OK mom! I feel better now. I have already forgiven them in my heart. I thought of Jesus on the cross when he looked up in heaven and said ‘Forgive them father for they know not what they have done!’ I followed his example and I forgave them!”
I was angry. I was angry at those children who made my son’s heart hurt. I was angry at their insensitivity. I didn’t want to acknowledge that they too are seven year olds, and they speak their minds. They haven’t perfected the art of diplomacy yet. My first reaction was anger! While my seven year old son’s first reaction was sadness and then the spirit of forgiveness. I was humbled instantly.
Ryan’s spirituality is intense, honest and simple. With the precious innocence that only little children possess he has gleaned the core truth from the unnecessary complexities of faith espoused by dogmatic religious fanatics. God, to him, is like a universal parent to all. A parent, who is omnipotent, omniscient. When he goes to steal a cookie, behind mommy’s back, he stops himself thinking, even if mommy doesn’t know about it, God is watching. God won’t give him a punishment but he will be disappointed. Like most children, he aims to please, and like most, he fears the disappointment of grown ups and God.
I feared about the intensity of his faith at one point. I have said before, true faith is a thing of beauty but there is a fine line between being faithful and being high handed about one’s belief. I want my children to grow up with a mind which doesn’t fester in narrow minded thoughts but one that lets in the fresh breeze of new ideas and beliefs. I want them to not simply accept, but question, argue and be inclusive of all that is right and all that need to be righted.
Ryan’s thoughts on the role of women and homosexuality is so poignant in its simplicity that it indeed makes one think ‘What is so complex about it?’ He believes God loves all and all his children are equal in his eyes. So why can’t women become priests in most religions and what is the problem with a human loving another, no matter what gender? Seriously! What indeed is the problem! If a child of seven years can look at the issue with such pristine clarity, why can’t the learned grown ups? Why do we analyze God’s love so? His simplicity in faith is something I aspire to achieve and the world would be a better place if more and more people just focus on their love for God instead of judging others’ love for Him.
It took me time to understand my boy. I remember reading a book to him when he was no more than five or six, where a pigeon takes it upon himself to drive a bus and gets in all sort of trouble. The last question of the book was, should the pigeon be allowed to drive. The obvious answer to that question was an emphatic ‘no’ for all the mayhem he caused. Ryan responded with a ‘yes’, he should be given a chance to drive. Everybody deserves a chance and maybe the pigeon will do better next time.
His thoughts were, and still are, unexpected. I listen to his responses, his explanations on life and its working and pause to ponder upon it. He has a depth in his thinking which belies his age. He has that unique combination of wisdom and innocence. He asks me if ‘other than me’ do we have any maid service since most of his friends have cleaning ladies to clean their house. And he asks his dad, a week prior to his eighth birthday,
‘Dad, am I who you expected me to be?’
The one word that comes to mind when I think of my son is joyful. He is so utterly and completely full of joy in his little life. He has the ability to find joy in the simplest of things, like a line of ants marching by, or a wild daffodil growing in our backyard, or the action figure that he takes to bed with him. It seems like he possesses an inner light that keeps his soul shining brightly. I often wish I could borrow some of his light to lighten my inner being on a particularly dark day. He does share his light with me so I can send positivism out to the universe I interact with. He is like a drop of golden glitter on the canvas of my life and the glitter keeps spreading and glowing, making my life sparkle with joy.
He came home on Valentine’s Day with a bunch of little cards from his little friends and one big anonymous card. It was a written by a child, that was obvious. It had a red heart inside. The message was short yet meaningful! A second grader had written to him:
Ryan, thanks for being there!
That is the kind of man, I hope he grows up to be, who will be there for another in his/her time of need.
I asked him on the eve of his birthday, “How does it feel to be growing up Ryan? How does it feel to be you? How has the ride been so far?”
With his usual cheer, he replied, “Great mom! The ride so far has been just great. I had to make a few pit stops once in a while but I filled myself with gas, and then I was ready to go. I was back on the ride again – all the way to heaven!”
Hope you have a long, joyful ride, son. Hope your ride to heaven is of course, very long, but never monotonous but filled with all the wonders, all the joy, some challenges, some sorrows but predominantly happiness and color and spirit that you carry in your heart and that you radiate to the world around you.
Happy birthday, child. Shine on!!