Want a boost of hope when things seem hopeless, a light when things seem dark or a smile when there only seem to be a frown?
I know you didn’t ask for advice but I’m going to give it anyway – spend some time with a really young child. Or if you happen to be in my neighbourhood take a walk around Titan park (Bucharest) late afternoon and I can lend you one for a few minutes.
My youngest daughter, Sara, turned 1 year old in February. She learned to walk some months ago and with the onset of Spring has been exercising her little legs at every opportunity.
Our daily walk in the local park is one such opportunity and I so love to watch her. Her heart is so completely open I feel inspired every moment I see her express this. She does this mainly by walking around the park, smiling and waving at everyone.
And I mean EVERYONE.
She pays no attention to age, skin colour, dress, gender, smell or whether the person lives in an apartment or in the park.
Everyone receives her smile and a wave.
She makes no exception.
From the reactions I see around her she is spreading joy, delight, relief, hope and many other things and is starting to become quite well known locally.
I’m pretty sure she’s not doing it for the fame and I’m also sure she’s not aiming or expecting to get anything back from those she interacts with.
90% respond with the same and she’s not in the slightest bothered by the 10% who are either too preoccupied to notice her or too wrapped up in something to be moved by her. When, as usual, she does get a smile or a wave in return it encourages her to wave again but she can just as easily move on to the next person and share a little more joy when there’s no response.
The only conclusion I have is that her reaching out to others in this way gives her pleasure by meeting her own need for giving.
I take this as a simple lesson in pure giving from the heart.
Giving As A Need
One of the first things I heard in my early days of NVC was that giving from the heart and contributing to the lives of others are shared, universal needs. I was already well into my thirties at the time I first heard this and was quite skeptical as it didn’t fit with my experience of the world or of myself.
I certainly wouldn’t describe myself as a warm, cuddly type and I’m sure no one who knows me would either. I have many positive qualities but friendliness, generosity and ease of connection are not among them. Wandering around the park smiling and waving at people is just not something I would do.
My mother tells me, though, I was exactly the same as Sara when I was a baby. Smiling and waving at everyone.
I’ve been asking myself what prevents me manifesting this giving from the heart. I clearly have it or watching Sara express it as she does wouldn’t be such an inspiration for me. I wouldn’t be so deeply touched every time I see it and I wouldn’t look forward to our walks in the park for my daily dose of hope and optimism.
I’m mourning the barriers I put up for myself. The thoughts telling me to be wary of strangers. The idea there are people out there who might hurt me or ridicule me. The imagination that smiling at strangers might be misinterpreted and could get me into trouble.
I don’t believe I’m alone.
Mostly people walk around the park or the street in their own world with tension on their brow and eyes dropped.
When I see how they react to Sara I often pick up a sense of relief as they drop their habitual ‘stay away’ look for a precious moment of eye contact with another human being. I see light coming on in their eyes as Sara’s gift is gratefully received. The fact she’s a very small child somehow makes it safer to drop the mask and respond.
Or perhaps Sara is a reminder how open, trusting and joyful they themselves were at that young age and they have a small window into that wonderful flow that comes from giving from the heart.
Welcome! I'm Ian Peatey and this site is one way I share Nonviolent Communication (NVC) by writing articles and sharing information about NVC materials, news and people. I hope you'll be a frequent visitor.
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