Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Through the Eyes of a Child

“A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love.” ~ Mother Teresa

When I went to pick up my daughter from pre-school yesterday, I found her in the reading corner looking at picture books with another child. I saw her pointing at one of the pictures in the book she was holding and laughing, and I wondered what she found funny in it - it was a picture of baby Jesus in the manger, surrounded by the three wise men bearing gifts.

Her teacher came along, took the book from her, and told her that it wasn’t a funny book and she shouldn’t be laughing at the pictures in it. I was stunned. Not by the fact that a small child was laughing at a picture, mind you, but at the thought that an adult allegedly trained to deal with children couldn’t tell the difference between a derisive laugh and an expression of joy. The two kids were enjoying the pictures, and looking at them made them happy; the fact alone that they would erupt into random laughter without a reason apparent to adults could possibly only be explained by the one grown-up person on earth who shares a child-like spirit, the Dalai Lama.

Inner joy is not something planned or in any way related to outside influences, but an inner state which is self-feeding and self-propagating. So, should we really teach our children that it is not okay to be joyful?

Having been raised in a fairly conservative environment, I am very familiar with – and a strong supporter of – self-discipline; I believe that one should not allow emotions to cloud our better judgment and get in the way of sound decisions set in place for our greater good, yet I believe that inner joy is such an asset that it should never be stifled.

A joyful person is always joyful, regardless of what’s happening in the outside world; even when trying events take place, the upset is only momentary, and the mood quickly shifts back to its natural state because joy stems from within and it’s barely stroked by circumstances. Many confuse happiness with joy, but the two are about as alike as silk and satin – both are soft and pleasant to the touch, but their origin and overall nature are different. Happiness can be exhilarating, but it is not constant. It shifts with the outside currents and can easily come and go depending on the presence – or lack – of external feeds.

Unless traumatized by unfriendly circumstances, children are joyful until adults get in the way telling them it is wrong to feel that way. A large portion of adults act foolish in the attempt of recapturing the essence of joy they felt as children, but they unfortunately seek joy where only happiness can be found. When the link to joy is criticized or abruptly interrupted, the child quickly looks for the closest substitute, happiness from the outside world.

When we walked outside, I asked my daughter what made her laugh while looking at the book. She looked at me with a twinkle in her eyes and said: “It was a picture of baby Jesus, Mommy; He was so cute that I wanted to hold Him.”

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