When my partner Tom’s brother, Jim, was just a little guy, their mother told him about the tradition of certain Native American tribes.
If someone admires something of yours, it was considered the gracious and generous thing to do to give it to them.
She’d related the information as an interesting bit of information without really thinking what effect it might have on a five year old.
It wasn’t good.
He couldn’t even say Roy Rogers, much less Dale … the name of Roy’s lovely significant other, Dale Evans. It came out Woy and Dayo.
This was a crisis. His stuff was in jeopardy.
You know how little kids are about their stuff. Miiiiiinnnnne!
He was well and truly distressed. The fundamental underpinnings of his world were this close to being jerked out from beneath him. His mind was spinning.
And then, just like that, a relieved expression came across his face. A switch had been flipped.
He looked and his mother and asked … “But you can admire it back, right?”
The tone was at once hopeful and concerned.
Time to get serious and focus Mom. After all, there must be some mistake. And you seem to know about these “Indians.”
At moments like this, children count on grownups to come through for them … to clear up the confusion and make things right with the world.
And she did. She could see the panic in his eyes and hear the beseeching tone of the question.
“I guess you could.”
That was enough. All was right with the world once more. He was happy again.
Oh, don’t you wish it were that simple when you’re faced with a world that’s suddenly stopped making sense … when the bedrock you’ve counted on your whole life to remain steady beneath your feet starts shifting?
And doesn’t it make you appreciate how attached we are to our “stuff ” … no matter how old we are?
And how beautiful it would be if we could come from that extraordinary place of generosity and lack of attachment that would allow you to say …
“You appreciate this thing. It’s special to me, but what would be more special is if I could give it to you, knowing it would bring you joy.”
To freely give it. To let go of it and be happy in the giving.
To part with a piece of yourself … without ever wanting or needing to admire it back.
Oh, the freedom … the joy.