Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke to me yesterday during my 7 mile training run. It’s possible that after an hour of being on a treadmill, of being watched by a garage poster of the Dale Earnharts, maybe I was beginning to hallucinate. It’s also possible that I have Netflix.
I was watching the very excellent documentary, “I Am”, by writer/director Tom Shadyac, (Iamthedoc.com, for more info on the documentary. Worth your time to watch if you are the least bit interested in human kindness. If you aren’t, then you’re probably kind of an asshole.) when Tutu said the following, “…God says, ‘I don’t have anyone else but you.'”
It was a few seconds that leaped out of time and stopped me in my tracks. Which is a bit dangerous on a treadmill.
I have been thinking a lot about my place in life – in this universe, on this earth, in this place that I am, in this body. I think part of this introspection is the pending empty-nestness when Logan leaves for college in the fall. My job as a mother will officially end. (It will never unofficially end, I know that, but I will no longer be required to do things like post bail and sign HIPAA forms.) Lately I have had more time to think about who I AM. And I think I am 6.
Really, I think we are all 6. The first graders that I teach are authentic versions of themselves. They are honest and clean. Well, their souls are clean – not so much faces and hands, especially after eating glue sticks. But they show you just who they are, they make no excuses for why they are who they are, and they have genuine empathy for others and an unjaded sense of humanity. They run fast. They skip, even. They are friends with one another regardless of gender, race or socio-economic status. They will not stay 6, and thus will probably not remain so genuinely themselves. They will change through years of love, heartbreak, divorce, winning, losing, facing abusers, and abusing. They will discover the things that change us all. And they will completely forget who they were when they were 6. We all do.
But I have been thinking lately about who I was when I was 6. I loved cereal and Chocola. I liked Hong Kong Phooey, even though I was a girl and it was a boy cartoon. I was concerned about who I would marry – The Fonz or Vinny Barbarino. My best friend was the boy across the street. I wrote great stories and colored outside the lines when I was at home and a teacher couldn’t tell me not to. I had a tremendous amount of friends, mostly imaginary. My red hair was crazy curly, I was missing a few teeth, and I didn’t care. I loved trees, my crazy dog, buttercups, and I hated nothing. I hated nothing and no one. That was who I was. This is, in essence, who I am.
And now that I have strayed far from my point (also indicative of who I am…) allow me to digress. I am beginning to remember who I am in my soul, and now the question for me has been, where does who I am in my soul fit in with the world around me? Maybe I am who I am, but why am I?
Growing up, my teachers always said, “She’s very bright, but she doesn’t apply herself.” I imagine that God, who I believe created me and is part of who I am, says something similar. “She’s got a good soul, but she doesn’t apply it to anything.” And when I heard Archbishop Tutu say those words, that God says I am all He’s got, it became more clear. Each of us is all God has. Each of us has the ability to make a difference to something or someone, or a great deal of somethings or someones. And we not only can, we HAVE TO. God doesn’t create good or evil situations. We were all created with the ability to create good or evil situations, and the choice to do either is what makes the world a better or worse place. So now I have the responsibility, because I am all God has, to do better. I have the responsibility to be kinder to someone. I have the responsibility to help someone in need. I have the responsibility to hate nothing and no one, like I did when I was 6. Each of us has this responsibility to do good in the world. It might be easier if we remember who we were before we became who we are. But this time, let’s not eat glue sticks.