It’s Monday morning again.
I find myself slipping into that same familiar space I shouldn’t allow myself to go, a place where sadness abounds and regrets churn inside me. Just an hour ago I was kissing the face of an angel and telling her to have a wonderful day at school.
Now I sit alone, pen in hand, knowing that the words I allow to spill out of me can either rescue me from the approaching darkness, or pull me deeper into my pit of torturous self-pity.
In the past I would have gladly drowned myself in painful memories and harsh insults, but today I have the ability to make a much more positive, liberating choice.
It’s time to write my weekly e-mail to my four-year-old daughter, Veni. A few months ago, I created an account for her for just this purpose.
It’s my way of feeling close to her when we are apart (which happens a good bit, because I only have joint legal custody of her and a strict visitation agreement with her father).
I use this address to write her about what I feel is important, to tell her stories, to impart wisdom and advice and to let her know how loved she is. She will get the password to her account when she turns 18.
The following letter is a story of our time together, and an important lesson in compassion and gratitude.
I started singing this Bob Marley song to you one night a month or so ago when you were in the bathtub and I was having a hard time convincing you to get out.
You loved it.
Since then, we’ve sung the chorus together many times. Last time we sang it, you asked me what it meant to stand up for your rights. What a question for a four-year-old to ask! And for a mother to explain! But I did my best. And you “got it”. Boy did you ever.
That’s one of the things I love about you, Veni. You are so curious and thirsty for knowledge. When you ask a question you listen to the answer. And you understand. And if you don’t understand you say so. And you ask more questions. And you listen again until you do understand. What a blessing for you and me.
I explained to you what Bob Marley meant by “rights” and you focused intensely, wrapping your developing mind around a concept which explanation is normally reserved for a much older audience. We talked about freedom—those who have it and those who do not. We talked about sacrifice and hard work.
We talked about gratitude. We spoke about both passion and compassion. We had a long conversation about respect and privileges.
Most four-year-olds I’ve known would have interrupted me, or ignored me within three to five minutes of my explanation of Mr. Marley’s lyrics.
But you didn’t. You were fascinated.
I remember exactly what you said when I informed you that your education was a privilege to be appreciated. You thought all kids “had to go to school”. You were concerned when you found out this was not the case for those less fortunate. It sincerely puzzled you that this could be true.
Then, almost baffled, you begged the question, “Mommy, if we know, why don’t we teach them?”. That’s my girl. I’d never been more proud of you-but you didn’t really know why I was so impressed when it just seemed like the obvious solution to you. And it is obvious, Veni. To people like us.
I answered your question. I told you some people do exactly that. They realize the importance and significance of education and they offer it selflessly to anyone willing to listen and learn. They all work long hours, for little or no pay or appreciation. They’re rarely recognized for the job they do or the contribution they are making. It’s not about that to them. Its as simple to them as it is to you. They know, so they teach. And they change lives. And they save lives.
I don’t think some adults are even aware of this, so I’m sure a four-year-old eqipped with this knowledge is rare, but I answered your question. Maybe it will make a difference in your life and what you choose to do with it. Maybe not.
You can do what you wish with the knowledge I give you. That’s your right.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Bronwyn Petry / Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Biblioarchives, Flickr Creative Commons