Sunday, October 7, 2012
You could make the case that these are just hard, cruel times, and by extension, that we are just a species riddled with meanness. Aggression, intimidation, and dishonesty are called "presidential-ness." Some businesses have turned to a "profit above all else" ethic--an employee at Bank of America recently told someone I know to lie about her income so she could stay on food stamps and pay the bank with her food money. While the average family lost 40% of their net income in the years 2007-10, some people turned a profit. The number of millionaires in the U.S. grew by 8% in the same period.
But watching Little Bug reminds me that there is hope for us. Many things give him joy. The other day he spotted a VW bug, really looked at one for the first time, and laughed out loud, which reminded me that this was effectively the point of them, or was until they became some expensive retro status symbol. But they still are hilarious-looking cars.
He loves his friends. He likes holding hands, hugging, kissing. This goes for human friends, dogs, and stuffed animals, too.
Falling leaves make him jump up and down with excitement, and (as in the picture above) running with the last gone-to-seed dandelions of the season, found unexpectedly at a park near here, is unbelievably fun, especially if you are going down hill, get over your feet, and tumble into a giggling heap at the bottom.
But the thing that most made me notice recently that humans are an astonishingly generous and kind species, too, was when I was lying on the bed with my ankle on a pillow, quite down in the mouth about a sprain. Bug grabbed his Raffi-Taffy stuffed dog, a Yorkie with a pink felt-lined zebra-striped jacket, and started gently walking him across my head. "Raffi-Taffy jump on Mama Laura!" he said, in the exact same trying-to-coax a smile voice you would use with a sick kid. "Oh! Fall off!" He laughed. He stroked my arm gently.
I was struck by how different this was than his usual play. He's rarely a real pain, but often if I or we are trying to read or otherwise preoccupied, as I was then with my ankle, he'll try to entertain himself by exploring, eventually getting into something he shouldn't; he'll try to get our attention by messing with something or trying to get us to read to him or play a game. This wasn't any of that. He was trying to make me laugh.
"Mickey jump with Jackson!" he said, wrapping his arms around the oversized Mickey Mouse doll his cousins had brought back from Disneyland the year before. He jumped on the bed, launching himself in the air and falling down. He was trying so hard I had to laugh. As I laughed, he did. Pretty soon he got down on the floor, throwing Mickey into the air and himself on the floor so he disappeared from my sight line on the bed. We had discovered Vaudeville's slipping on a bannana peel joke, right there in the bedroom. I laughed until I choked up. Here was this little guy, so full of empathy at two that he was incredibly invested in amusing me, a point that came home to me every time he got up, ruefully rubbing whatever part of his body he had landed on.
I think this is a lot of the appeal of being around children, and why those of us who have them find them addictively interesting. Some exceptions notwithstanding, they almost all laugh. They make you laugh. They dance. They are the best cure for pessimism I have found.