My oldest son started kindergarten this year. One evening at dinner, shortly after the school year started, we were talking about his different classes and teachers. Of course he didn’t know any of their names yet, so I asked him to describe them to me. We went through and after some questions I’d give him a name and he’d tell me if it was the right person or not. We got to a point where we had narrowed down our list of descriptions as much as he could, but still didn’t know who the teacher was for one of his classes. My last question to solve this mystery was “is your teacher black or white?”. He gave me a a funny look and said “I don’t know”.
What? How can you not know?
I’m sure you’ve heard it before. Someone who’s accused of being racist or prejudice responds with “I’m not racist, I have a friend who’s black”. It’s a no win answer because if you don’t answer with the “black” qualifier (or white, Hispanic, Asian, etc for that matter) then you’re believed to be narrow-minded and preferential to one group of people. But when you answer that way you always get the “Yeah, but you still notice that their black/white/Hispanic/Asian don’t you?” You’ll never hear them answer “I don’t know what an Asian person looks like”.
The Christian Bible refers several times to who will control God’s Kingdom. Isaiah talked about heaven and children leading (Isaiah 11:6). Jesus said the kingdom of God belongs to children and to become like one of them. But more than just the Bible, many see the peace and joy that childlike innocence has on the world. Sigmund Freud said “What a distressing contrast there is between the radiant intelligence of the child and the feeble mentality of the average adult.”
We grow old and we see malice in others motives. We read between the lines, inferring our own ill conceived notions into someones motives and actions. Even those who do good are questioned. We say things like “You got flowers at work from your husband? What did he do wrong?” But does a child need a reason to rush a handful of crumpled dandelions into his mother and proudly display them in a vase on the kitchen table?
I recently wrote about John Lennon’s song Imagine (part 1, part 2). People read into every line of this song, trying to delve the greater meaning to the words and John Lennon’s intent. But why couldn’t you just enjoy the song with childlike amusement and imagine a world without guns, war, hate, or prejudice. A world where you could share your corner of the sandbox.