Love is a big topic so I am pretty sure I will have more to say on the subject.
This blog is supposed to be about Apolitical Blues. Perhaps this old poem by Lescelles Abercrombie, drawing on his experiences during WWI, seems very political, but when I was an impressionable 12 year old and I heard this recitation as the last song on the second side of a favorite album, it also helped me see how I, being a child/man, should be treated and how I should view kids as an adult.
It stuck out because it was a poem on an album, not a song (and frankly I didn’t much like poetry but I liked this). The Vietnam War was a hopeless mess that had been going on my entire life. It stuck out because my brother was approaching draft age. I saw anti-war protests and collected rubber bullets and tear gas canisters for Show-and-Tell. I had seen for years the black & white images of blood and death from Kent State, The Mekong Delta and elsewhere on the TV news and in Life magazine.
There are a lot of politics to talk about in that poem, but I will leave that be. Instead I am recalling that I took a message from this poem about the importance of children. I took a message about the importance of being accountable for the well-being of children, even if they are not your own. Maybe there isn’t anything MORE important. Children know only goodness until the grown-ups get involved (or fail to get properly involved, depending on your POV).
By the time I reached college, I viewed events such that I could see how possible it was becoming for a single, madly evil person to inflict horrific injury to so many others. No longer would a Hitler need a whole army and nation behind him. One person with a homemade device could poisonously pollute entire cities with radioactivity or germs. Today, it is even easier, perhaps with little more than a keyboard and internet connection (or a box-cutter and a boarding pass). We saw last week what one person with a .45 automatic and a misguided sense of history and social media could inflict (or wish to inflict) on an entire race of people.
My senior thesis was an argument that perhaps the single greatest and important thing most people can accomplish is to raise into adulthood people who bring goodness and kindness to others in the world.
That doesn’t necessarily mean raising biological kids or even “raising” kids in the traditional sense. It means making a difference in a kid’s life. It means being the difference between a young person becoming this or this.
Most people, in this regard, may have more opportunity for impact on the world than most statesmen and political leaders. Even if the kids we touch don’t make any top-25 list, they can use your kindness as an example and source of inspiration for kindness towards their own kids. In my time since this notion first came to me, I think this is only all the more true.
So, smile at a kid today.
Help him or her feel love and kindness towards themselves and others.