“And I say that if a man had climbed to the stars
And found the secrets of the angels,
The best thing and the most useful thing he could do
Would be to come back and romp with children.”
— G. K. Chesterton
Many years ago, per the invitation of an old high school friend, I meandered over to my former elementary school to lend my voice. I speak for a living and felt it was the least I could do to read Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham" to the little kids at Montgomery Catholic Preparatory School’s preschool program.
I didn't expect much from the experience. Maybe a few smiles. A giggle or two perhaps. A pleasant morning of giving back to my old school and church community in a small, but fun, way.
Nor was I going in with some cynical agenda to thrust a particular political ideology on the children. I wasn’t pushing a libertarian or conservative line, and I certainly wasn’t going as a drag queen intending to "queer the gender binary" or "stimulate ‘queer imagination’" in the kids. It baffles my mind to think that some monsters exist who would happily push their jaded ways on children and spur the loss of their innocence.
I was just going to read Dr. Seuss because a friend asked me. It was that simple, even ho-hum.
Nonetheless, I will never forget what transpired that morning. My time with those children shattered an unhealthy case of cynicism that I developed and carried in my heart through my young adult years, the result of living too long in and amongst a world of political blather, profane humor, and a revolving cast of intoxicated, self-centered 20-somethings.
I am happy to report the reading of "Green Eggs and Ham" went well. Like I said, I speak for a living. Piece of cake.
The kids — roughly 30 three- and four-year-olds sitting cross-legged on the floor (in my childhood that pose was inartfully called sitting “Indian style”) — laughed and shouted with glee as the story's drama transpired. I even sprinkled in my own commentary on the story's characters: “Sam-I-am is one generous and persistent purveyor of flavor! How accommodating with all his offers of boxes and foxes, trains and rain! What a gracious host! Who is this crusty curmudgeon that won't eat Sam-I-am's delicious culinary creation?”
Some may say, Joey, you can't talk to kids like you talk to adults. To a certain extent, I wholeheartedly agree. But here's the thing: I somewhat can talk to kids like I talk to adults because it just so happens that I often find myself talking to adults like they're children. So it's a wash.
When the reading was over, I was happy with the kids' attention and my silly performance. But then an unexpected thing happened. A wonderfully innocent unexpected thing.
The children obliged as their teachers prodded them to applaud my reading performance. But as the applause died down, a little boy scrambled up from his seat at the back of the pack and sprinted toward the front of the room. He proved too quick and nimble for his teacher, evading her grasp by only a couple inches, running toward the front like a tiny linebacker executing a blitz package against me, the quarterback.
I wasn’t particularly scared of his approach. I was more perplexed by his speed and determination. What was this kid up to?
Before I knew it, he had closed the distance and was hugging my left shoulder. I laughed. This set off a chain reaction as a flood of 30 little hugs swept over me, thanking me for my simple service.
I could feel the cynicism leave me immediately. Such innocence and cynicism can't mix. I mean who gives hugs so willy-nilly, with no reason other than to do it?
And that's the beauty of it. There was no agenda, only the simple and innocent enjoyment of the moment. Leave it to youthful imagination, whimsy, and innocence to remind this sad sap of how wonderful the world can be.
That’s the lesson all adults need. We need to leave our cynicism and political agendas outside the door of the classroom, if only so us jaded adults can learn what the children have to teach when they are free to just be children.
Joey Clark is a native Alabamian and is currently the host of the radio program News and Views on News Talk 93.1 FM WACV out of Montgomery, AL M-F 9 am-12 noon. His column appears every Tuesday in 1819 News. To contact Joey for media or speaking appearances as well as any feedback, please email email@example.com.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819news.com.
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