For Mike Iamele, sometimes the key to getting along is remembering that everyone you’re dealing with was once a kid, too.
Recently, I attended a food tasting at the Children’s Museum, to benefit the Greater Boston Food Bank this holiday season (and, of course, my appetite for good food). The theme of the event was—no surprise—childhood, so 23 different chefs each created a dish for us that represented their childhood.
I tried truffled tater tots, a butternut squash whoopie pie, and even an ice cream sundae made of chicken and waffles. (Yeah, it was better than it sounds.)
But the real fun was that we were in a kid’s museum. He challenged me to a rock-climbing contest. We sprinted through Arthur’s world and got to run with his gang through a green screen. We had pulley races to see who could pull ourselves up the fastest. We sawed and hammered. We played doctor. We got to be kids again. For just a night, we got to remember how to play.
There was this one moment in the night. This one moment—as I walked past the trendy DJ and the charity auction—where I looked up to see a serious-looking man in a business suit. His eyes sparkled with wonder as he tried to get a ball to shoot high into the air. He clapped his hands wildly and started jumping for joy as he accomplished his goal. And, for just that moment, he was seven years old again. He wasn’t at this fancy (let’s face it, kind of pretentious) event. He wasn’t a serious businessman. He was a child. Just a child playing, like all the others.
And it occurred to me that we were all children. Even your horrible boss and that rude neighbor. Even your miserable ex-girlfriend and your stern father. We were all children once. Just naïve, scared, foolish, playful, excited, wondrous little children.
Children who desperately wanted the approval of everyone around them. Children who danced and laughed and played because it was all they knew how. Children who let their emotions rule them and threw temper tantrums. Children who hurt easily, who loved effortlessly, and who’d forget they were made after five or ten minutes.
It’s so easy to take the world seriously. To see every failure as fatal. To hold grudges. To get angry. To paint people as the bad guys. To feel insecure. To doubt ourselves. To get caught up in the future.
But we were a child once. And so were they. And maybe part of us still is. Maybe part of us just wants the freedom to roam around and laugh and play. Maybe part of us just wants to be included with the kids who are playing over there. For whom laughter comes easy. For whom play is a religion. For whom adventure is just a Tuesday afternoon.
I know it’s something I need to remember. As I’m seeking endorsements for my book and am reaching out to my own heroes, I’m terrified that they’re light-years above me. And then I remember that we were all just children once. And somehow it seems less scary.
As I hold grudges toward people who’ve hurt or offended me, I picture them on a playground just trying to figure it all out. And then that anger seems quick to disappear.
As I make mistakes and fail, I see the kid with the scraped knee, getting back up and continuing to play. And I remember this isn’t my first rodeo.
The thing about kids is that we forgive them easily. They’re just children. If they knew better, they’d do things differently. But they’re just kids.
We’re all growing at different speeds. We’re all growing up and expanding in different ways. Some of us are early and some are just late-bloomers. Have patience with everyone, most of all yourself. Forgive easily. Laugh effortlessly. Love deeply. And always remember to play.
As I took one last look at the museum before I left last night, I remember thinking, “This place is one giant playpen, and we’re all just learning how to play.”
That’s life, folks. And that’s how it should be.
Originally published at BostonWellnessCoach.com.
Photo: Nathan Jones/Flickr