Every child loves a story. If it is to your good fortune that you are the story-teller, you can see their wide eyes dance in wonder and merriment as the story takes shape in their little minds. If you are also an acute observer, you realize well into the narration, that your body is moving in rhythm to your words, that you are not speaking in words but talking in pictures as you follow precious cues from little faces. Wide open eyes, twinkling with otherworld imaginings, eye brows pumping furiously as the thrills, suspense, and final happy endings carry them along sometimes with a collective guffaw and at other times, a dewdrop trace of a smile. You come to the end of your story but you leave behind so much more, the hint of a tomorrow better than today, a better world where people can be kind and nice to each other and a future that is more hopeful.
A similar experience worth cherishing is a song. A rhyme, a sweet tune, a mellifluous ditty with words that conjure up child-pictures created from a child’s world. You croak the first few bars and then you gaze agape as little mouths form words and sing the tune. The song builds up from a lilting soprano to a cascading crescendo, carried on waves of deep breaths. The tune continues outside of your body long after your singing has stopped. Sometimes the collective logic of these magic moments escapes you, but you behold the wonder all around you and regardless of your faith and beliefs, the moment truly becomes a prayer. Believing becomes a way of “seeing”, and things that are considered too childish for your age, become the supreme engaging need of the moment.
Just like a birthday and a name, every child needs to possess its own song. I learned this way of thinking by a couple with five children who for me embody the spirit of the word family in its truest sense. Who they are is not important but they are known to many and have invested much in the lives of so many children, and people like me, when I was a child too. I saw stories unfold before my eyes when this man danced, and spoke, with sound effects peppering the scene so my own childish heart could see. On a recent visit, I watched while he put his youngest son to sleep as he softly sang him a song.
Today is my daughter’s seventh birthday. I wore formal trousers, shirt and blazer just to walk her those few yards to her class room. I was deeply grateful for the moment and the thousand other moments like these, each precious uncut gem singed into my memory for the future. And while I have many songs for her that I wish her to own as hers, the favorite one of my choosing for her today, is “You are the sunshine of my life” by Stevie Wonder.
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