“She’s not tough enough for school,” my husband says over dinner. I know and I’m scared too, but at least one of us is supposed to know what we’re doing, so I parrot the conventional wisdom of the status quo to quiet his fears.
“She’ll toughen up.”
“She’ll figure it out.”
I was too nice growing up. It took hard lessons in middle school to raise my pain tolerance. To teach me that despite all the books I’d read, and what my teachers said, nice wasn’t cool. Pretty was cool. Rich was cool. And mean, really mean, was cool.
After a few short lessons, I was good at being mean to my brother; punishing him for thinking I was good enough to look up to or want to be around. I started saying ugly things to or about my “friends” and letting the laughter of our peers swallow the guilt.
I toughened up. I figured it out.
But still I worry for her. The depth of her kindness. Her ability to feel compassion, even for those who are ultimately doing wrong. Her readiness to forgive and see the good long after I’ve passed judgement and moved on.
Maybe part of it is where and who she came from and maybe the other part is because she’s made how she was made with intent and purpose. Perfectly and wonderfully.
Maybe her momma and Daddy needed to remember or even just to witness this level of generosity and kindness. Maybe her oncoming brother is her keeper. Maybe, like some little boys, he will be all rough edges to her smooth. Maybe he will need her kindness to hold him accountable for his own.
Or maybe I’m thinking small. Maybe even more than her family does, this world needs a sweet girl like mine. One to remind us all of how to treat one another. To remember to ask about eachother’s day. To be grateful for circumstances that teach us and help us to grow. To cherish the little kindnesses afforded to us along the way.
This little girl–who offers to share or even give away the last bites of her dessert, who picks flowers for her momma even when I’ve sent her out for chores, who kisses me when she thinks I’m asleep, despite knowing that if I were, I’d be unable to return her love–is really the one with the answers.
She thanks Jesus, Siri and the car for safe trips. She prays for every siren she hears. Even alone in her bed, with only God and her parents as her witnesses, from Heaven and the monitor in the other room. My little, sweet, girl ends her own prayers asking only for the ability to keep her fish (that I keep killing) alive and her family together. She somehow already understands to ask for just the important things.
Maybe she’s mine because I can still remember what I’ve lost. Maybe my husband and I have had parts of our hearts hardened, so that we will know best how to protect hers. How to guard what is special and what is sacred there–without apologies or excuses. And more importantly, without waiting for her to change who she is.
We will protect her until she realizes kindness has never been her weakness, but her greatest and most divine strength.
Until she grows and finds even more friends like herself. We will watch her and learn from her, our little girl who brims with compassion.
Our sweet girl.
Our strong, strong girl.
Because maybe it’s not her we should be waiting on to change. Maybe it’s the world.Liza Dora is an author, illustrator, and Texan living in Tennessee with her husband and two children. Liza graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in chemistry and is the proudest member of the class of 2007.
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