Yesterday as I was taking the bus to drop off Phineas at daycare, a little girl and her mother sat next to us. There was something about this little girl. She was so full of light. When she smiled her whole body smiled.
“Excuse me,” she said. “Your dog is so cute!”
She giggled with her mom, spotted her teacher on the bus, and gave her infant sister a kiss. This little girl was magnetic. There was clearly a lot of love between her and her mom.
On my way home from work, I saw this same little girl. She recognized me and Phineas. She still sparkled but a little less so now. She had 3 of her cousins and her aunt with her. One of the cousins was trying to tell her mother that one of her teachers said she had a real gift for painting. The mother barely paid attention to her.
All of the kids were very interested in Phineas and had lots of questions about him, which I was happy to answer. Their aunt was not thrilled about them talking to me. She yelled at them several times, and made more eye contact with the game on her phone than with any of the kids she was supposed to be watching.
As it turned out, we all got out at the same stop. They live just across the street from me in a housing project. There was something about that made me so sad, and then it made me angry. Here was this amazing little girl, so clearly bright and in love with life, and she deserves to have that light honored and supported.
While I understand that children are resilient, I also know that what is said to them, or not said to them, makes a world of difference as they grow up and become adults. Listen to children. Honor them. Respect them. Understand that every action and every word we express now has such an outsized impact on them. They need us and we need them if we’re going to build a better world. And a better world is what we all deserve.