“And the trees were so glad to have the children back again that they had covered themselves with blossoms, and were waving their arms gently above the children's heads. The birds were flying about and twittering with delight, and the flowers were looking up through the green grass and laughing.”
– Oscar Wilde, “The Selfish Giant”

Until recently, I have never had the occasion to feel like a giant. I am hardly a tall man. In fact, I can only recall once being asked to reach for something for someone else: a short, hairy little man with a thick Indian accent who approached me in the men's section of Target.  

His shopping cart was full of boxes of men’s hair dye. Dozens and dozens of boxes. Yet what seemed like too many to me apparently wasn’t quite enough for him. He told me the few remaining boxes at the back of the shelf were just out of his reach.  

Upon grabbing them for him, he said, “You’re my hero, sir!”  

As the odd little man carted away the store’s entire stock of men’s black hair dye, I wondered if he was dying all his body hair at once or just saving up for a rainy day.  

I guess I’ll never know.  

Nevertheless, I did feel a bit taller that day – though I hardly felt like a hero or giant for such a small act of courtesy that anyone over 5’5” could accomplish. 

But while I am not a tall man, my walls grow taller by the day. The older I become, the more I build up walls around my heart. My gates are warped-tight, selfishly shut for my own protection against would-be trespassers.  

I made my world smaller by defensive design, wary of that wicked world outside my walls, suspicious of society’s fickle imposition, especially of those imposing in the name of serving the collective need. Man is no doubt a social animal. Through others, he comes to know himself and his needs. But man’s needs do not give him a right to another’s abilities.  

Alas, when the nebulous collective need becomes the primrose path to political power and privilege, man’s needs will become insatiable and without end as his abilities inevitably atrophy. Men must be free if they are to flourish and furnish a future for the select few they choose to love and let inside.  

A man need not open his heart to the whole world either, else his heart becomes hardened and weathered. Walls and gates have their place. In fact, any man who claims to love the whole world most likely lusts to rule over it, whether he is conscious of his lust or not. It is not public glories, accolades, or awards that make men feel like giants, but the most intimate and smallest of loves.  

Until recently, I have never had occasion to feel like a giant. Until recently, the gates to my walls were selfishly shut to newcomers, wary of a world full of contrived needs and false compulsory compassions. Yet, the smallest of newcomers recently opened the gates to my heart with the most honest and basic of needs.  

There I was, my six-month-old niece in my arms, a bottle resting in my hand, watching her suckle for more formula. She looked so happy in the purest sense of the word. My brother, her father, had asked me to feed her a bottle so he could have five minutes to simply take a shower. It was the least I could do. Minutes are precious things for a parent when taking care of a baby.  

At first, I didn’t think much of it. “Of course I can feed her, easy, piece of cake,” I thought, having never fed a baby.  

It was easy, practically speaking, but as I watched my baby niece enjoy her second breakfast in my arms, it dawned on me that I was engaged in something much more than a small act of courtesy (certainly something much more than helping a hairy little man extend his reach for another box of hair dye). This was something I knew I would never forget -- the welcoming of a new family member into my heart.  

I confess: Holding tiny her, I felt myself a selfish giant, one who did not deserve to hear the flowers of his garden laugh again. My gates had been selfishly warped shut for so long that winter had become my soul’s only season, and I had grown accustomed to this cold without hope of thaw. 

Yet, there they were, the flowers, looking up through the green grass and laughing at the picture of this precious child feeding in my arms.  

Though I am still wary of the world outside my walls, my gates will always be open to her. My abilities freely and forever in service to her needs.

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 12 p.m. - 3 p.m. His column appears every Tuesday in 1819 News. To contact Joey for media or speaking appearances as well as any feedback, please email joeyclarklive@gmail.com. Follow him on X @TheJoeyClark or watch the radio show livestream.

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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