Innocence is more than a definition.

Bird Droppings May 18, 2022

Innocence is more than a definition.

“Look at children. Of course, they may quarrel, but generally speaking, they do not harbor ill feelings as much or as long as adults do. Most adults have the advantage of education over children, but what is the use of an education if they show a big smile while hiding negative feelings deep inside? Children don’t usually act in such a manner. If they feel angry with someone, they express it, and then it is finished. They can still play with that person the following day.” the Dalai Lama, “Imagine All the People.”

It has been quite a few nights since my wife, and I had a chance to go out together. I was thinking back to one evening as we sat down at our booth at a country restaurant, an elderly couple (older than me) carefully made their way to the adjacent booth. Both the husband and wife helped each other move ever so slowly. After his wife had seated herself, the husband fixed a plate at the buffet for her. When he returned to the table, my wife glanced over, and the woman was smiling as her husband came back to their table. My wife said, “she looked like a child” the child in her was coming out as she smiled.

 Many years ago, for a class in graduate human development, I developed a chart on the development of faith and trust. I had been reading a book by Dr. James Fowler, professor, and Director of Emory Candler School of Theology’s Ethics Center, on the development of faith. It was interesting as I read and saw correlations of various concepts to other educational developmentalists such as Piaget, Erickson, and even Freud.

“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” John Ruskin

 When I read the passage from the Dalai Lama, I was reminded of a stage I wrote about in my subsequent paper after researching and reading Fowler’s book, the idea of learned trust. When they are born, children inherently trust, and, in my paper, this is what I call Universal trust. A baby instinctively trusts as it survives by instinct and, in effect, a trusting behavior, sucking reflexes only require milk to satisfy. A bitter taste, and the baby would soon withdraw. The baby would learn not to suck.

A simple example is that as the child grows becomes more complex. Each new facet of life requires new information and understanding, and soon a child learns to trust. We go from an instinctual universal trust to a learned trust.

“Who would not rather trust and be deceived?” Eliza Cook

 A few Sunday nights back, going on seventeen years now, I delivered my youngest son to a local restaurant where the Early Learners had their Christmas banquet. Our high school has a group of fifteen or so Four-year-olds under the supervision of a lead teacher involved in teaching Early Childhood Education. This is a technical class in our school, an experimental school, and in some ways, a teaching school for high school students. Many of the little learners are children of teachers within our high school.

“You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don’t trust enough.” Frank Crane

 My son had been Santa Claus for two years for the little learners. Matt inherited my father’s Santa suit. For as long as I can remember, my father had been Santa for our family. I recall a night in Modena, Pa., Santa came through the fire escape window when I was four years old. This image is still vivid in my mind, and many things are not as I get older. I check my driver’s license for name and address periodically. For one reason or another, Matt had to wait, which meant sitting in the restaurant’s waiting area. Little children came through, some would hide behind their parents, and others would go up and sit beside him or ask him questions. Each child was unique.

“No, I don’t understand my husband’s theory of relativity, but I know my husband, and I know he can be trusted.” Elsa Einstein

“Trust men, and they will be true to you; treat them greatly, and they will show themselves great.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

When Matt finally went into the Christmas party, each child came up to him, and I would take a photo. There was no questioning who this was, and it was Santa. After all the little learners came up, the teenagers and high school girls sat on Matt’s lap. Now I know why Matt did this each year. But within the context of these moments, trust was adamant. Children have learned to believe in or not Santa Claus; that is not an instinctual event.

“Woe to the man whose heart has not learned while young to hope, to love — and to put its trust in life.” Joseph Conrad

So often, we take the innocence of children and convert it to the learned ways of adulthood; greed, envy, and all the other influences of humanity are learned. But I have found in life’s journey that trust does begin to filter back as time and age goes on. Thinking back to dinner with my wife and how she noticed the older woman’s smile, sometimes it is the glint in an eye or a smile from an elderly person that shows the inner child is still there. Perhaps that untouched innocence and universal trust have returned, or maybe like me, you forget everything you have learned not to trust. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and give thanks namaste.

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)


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