I’d like to tell you a little story. A true story. A story of joy. A story of sadness. But, it’s a true story.
A couple of weeks ago I was having lunch with a rambunctious little girl. She’s five years old. No. I take that back. She’s five and a half. She was very insistent upon the fact that she’s not five, but five and a half.
That caused me to think. Surprise. Surprise.
Why is it that as we grow older we tend to look at things so differently? Especially when it comes to age. We no longer think of ourselves as a member of those half ages, or quarter ages, or three quarter ages. Once we reach adulthood we become 27, 38, 46, 62, 71. Never 27 and a half, 46 and three quarters. We round it off. It becomes just plain 27, 46. Except women. Once they reach 39 and a half they’re always 39. Even when they’re 42 and a quarter, they’re still 39.
It’s a shame that we lose the open mindedness of childhood. We lose that freshness that greets each day, each idea, each conversation with awe and wonder that we had when we were children. But, this is not my story.
This is my story:
The little five and half year old girl I was having lunch with that day says to me, “Hey, that guy looks just like you.” And she points to a man standing in line waiting for a table.
I looked up and saw a man of my approximate height and build. I said to my rambunctious little lunch mate, “He doesn’t look like me. I’m better looking than he is.”
“He looks just like you. He doesn’t have any hair like you.”
“I’ve got some.”
“Not very much. Neither does he.”
“Just because we’re both almost bald doesn’t mean we look alike.”
She look at me with disdain and sighed. “He’s tall and skinny like you. You both wear glasses and he has a mustache like you.” She swipes her two fore-fingers across her upper lip and down to her chin. “His ears are even big like yours. You guys could be brothers.”
How could I fault her logic with those extraordinary observations? “You know I think you might be right. But, I still think I’m better looking than he is.”
She picked up her fork and stabbed at the food on her plate. She looked at me with the look that said, “You bet I’m right.” And snatched a fry that was lounging quietly next to the burger on my plate, and allowed it to join the food already occupying the limited space in her mouth.
Here’s where I can say this story is joyful. The man she was comparing me to was black. I am white. My rambunctious young friend did not see color as a part of her comparison.
If you ever observe young children you will see that they only see age as a determining factor. Oh, and sometimes gender depending on age, I guess. Children do not see color, religion, nationality, political affiliation, poverty level. None of that stuff.
As we grow older, though, we’re taught those particular things, and not always for the good. That is where the story becomes sad.
It’s a shame we can’t take the sadness from the act of growing older. Life would be so much better.
Good night, Mrs. Jackson, wherever you are.