I read the all same miserable news stories everyone else does. They’re usually about fighting, conflict, and the inability of many to simply be civil to one another. Whether it’s physical violence or mental beatings, there are so many things that make us shake our heads and wonder a common question.
What kind of world am I leaving my kids?
Here’s the twist, though. I don’t wonder that. I never wonder that and the reason why is simple. I haven’t left them this world.
Those negative stories have nothing to do with me because I don’t live my life in that way and I’ve had nothing to do with creating the people who do. The only hand I’ve had in helping to create the world that I will eventually “leave” to my children is what I’ve put into it myself. While I’ve definitely had some pitfalls here and there, I’m fairly happy with my contributions. They’re not all positive, but I feel like most of them are.
In fact, it’s insane to wonder “what type of world am I leaving my kids” because, well, my kids are the thing I am leaving in the world. They’re the only people I’ve had a genuine hand in molding and I’ve done everything I can to make them see the needs and value of others.
Don’t get me wrong. A lot of people out there aren’t overly pleasant to be around, and I know that my children, just like me, will have to interact with them. That’s why it’s important to emphasize that the things we do are more to good for the universe more so than for the people in it.
The best example of this happened a few years ago at Disney World, as we were waiting in line for a 3D movie. Still about 15 minutes from starting, we stood quietly in the lobby more for the air conditioning than anything else. We each had our special glasses that we grabbed one the way in and, since my son refuses to wear them, an extra pair to boot.
As we killed time searching for Hidden Mickeys, I saw a kid in front of us accidentally drop his glasses beyond the waiting area to a spot that couldn’t be reached. He stared sadly for a bit while his mother gave him a sideways look of disappointment. With one drop, his 3D experience had just fallen to 2.
I should point out that he wasn’t a little kid. He was maybe 17 with a tattered baseball cap, tank top, and patchy 12th grade facial hair. The scene was kind of pathetic, but we were in the happiest place on Earth. Why not spread happiness? I silently showed our extra glasses to my daughter Olivia and motioned to the guy. A nod told me she understood so we tapped him on the shoulder and handed him Lucas’s pair of glasses.
He stared blankly at us for a second. Then, in an instant, he took the glasses and immediately turned his back without saying a word.
I stood there a bit stunned for a second. We both did. My first instinct was to spin him back around and knock that stupid cap from his head. Then I remembered that I’m not 20 anymore and slapping high school kids, no matter how rude they are, is genuinely frowned upon in life…especially at Disney World. After a confusing minute, his mother finally turned and saw him wearing the glasses. She asked where he got them and he motioned towards us.
They gave them to you? That’s so nice. Thank you. Did you say thank you?! Say thank you!
He garbled out a “tanx” and dropped his head like he dropped his glasses. Olivia and I nodded and said our welcomes.
Later on, after the movie had ended, I told my daughter that what we did was important, not the reaction of the person we did it for.
Don’t let that guy not saying “thank you” stop you from ever doing something nice. That’s not why we do it. We don’t do it for him. We do it for us. We do it because we want the world to be a nicer place to live, right? So, if we’re nice, then it’s one more nice person doing a nice thing in the world.
I could tell that she got what I meant immediately. It’s a point that I try to reinforce every day. Make others happy and you’ll be happy yourself. Doing unselfish things for selfish responses like appreciation aren’t really unselfish things at all.
The funny thing is that some people might view this as a detriment to her personality. So often we associate kindness with weakness. People talk about how their kids must learn to steamroll others or push to get what they want. It’s how we raise a generation of little tycoons who rule the planet. Anything less will prevent them from success.
My life experience, however, says otherwise. I don’t like to work with people who don’t put out a good energy. I don’t enjoy associating with them unless I have to and, even then, I try to get through it as quickly as possible. Instead, I gravitate to people like Olivia and those who will hand a rude stranger their extra 3D glasses. I find that most people do. No one wants to be around someone who is mean or abrasive. They tolerate them for the time they need to. Those who make our worlds brighter through their positive actions are the ones we actually want in our lives. They’re the ones we go out of our way to help.
Rather than lament about how sad this planet is for my confused kid, I choose to make my kids better so that they can be a vital part of that positive world we all hope for. If I can raise my kids to care for people, then people will care for my kids. And even if they don’t, it’s doesn’t matter.
At the end of the day, it’s not about the world I’m leaving for my kids. It’s about the kids I’m leaving to the world.