He was 5 years old and is one of the loves of my life. We were playing together outside on a hot summer day while his 4 years old sister tried fruitlessly to carry her bucket of water to some unknown destination.
I say to the 5 year old, maybe we should go help your sister, it looks like she having trouble carrying her bucket. I say it in such a way to help him feel like the big boy that I know he wants to be.
And as we are walking to meet her, he stops, turns to me and asks in the most sincere of voices, “I’m good, right”.
And it’s a real question, and I know that it is an important moment.
And, I turn and I look him in the eyes and I say, yes, you are very good. And he looks at me and smiles and nods, as if to say, I thought so, I just needed to make sure. And I see him take my words in and he is relieved.
But his question hits me hard because I see a five year old who is teetering on the edge of losing the knowing that he is good, and although my answer temporarily reassures him, I know it won’t be enough to battle the forces that will be coming: the well meaning but over worked teachers, sleep deprived parents, young friends and adversaries, not to mention societal expectations.
But what can I do in this moment but tell him he is good?
Five years pass and that little boy is 10 years old now and I can tell he is forgetting what he once knew, and I want to whisper in his ear: You are good. You are good. Don’t forget, you are good.
But I can’t quite yet, because he is running off to baseball or basketball or playing with the other 10 year old neighborhood kids or teasing his sister or playing a video game or doing his homework.
But I will bide my time and wait for the right moment when I can remind him in some 10 year old appropriate way that he is good and that he is learning and that he is only 10, and it is okay to make mistakes and it is okay to not know and it is okay to cry and it is okay, it’s all okay.
But I can’t say it to him quite yet.
But I can say it here, to the 10 year old in all of us, who perhaps has forgotten what we once knew.
I could say:
Don’t forget that you once knew you were good. Before the conditioning and the tired voices all around you told you otherwise.
Don’t forget that it is okay to make mistakes, and its okay not to know, and it is okay not to be sure, and it’s okay to cry and we are all like children until we reach enlightenment.
Don’t forget that you have greatness in you, too.
Don’t forget that you are perfection becoming more perfect.
Don’t forget. Don’t forget.
Remember who you truly are.
Remember that you are good and you are learning.
Remember that the earth is a school.
And that you came to grow and to learn and to share and serve and to enjoy.
Don’t be so hard on yourself.
It’s all okay.
I love you.
Don’t forget. Don’t forget.
And maybe, just maybe, the 10 year old inside of all will, at long last, remember what has been forgotten.