Ever since I can remember, I have believed in the power of innocence. In the Bible, when Jesus says to receive the kingdom of God like a little child, I’ve always taken that to mean, without prejudice or judgement, or opinion. I know a lot of people who have a lot of opinions, and often marvel at how they can be so certain of what they know. My children are grown now. They are in their 20’s, which makes them adults. It sounds almost silly now, but when they were small, I hated having to limit their creativity and potential by telling them No. Only if it was absolutely necessary for their safety, would I exercise my influence.
I have a new grandbaby. Her name is Sofia. Sofia is 13 months old. She is half white, half black. When my daughter announced she would be marrying a black Dutch man, my husband and I didn’t have a problem with it, but my mother, who is 89 years old did. My children and I tried explaining to her that her nationality, Italian, was a mixture of North African and Arabic She loves my husband, so we used the argument that his nationality, Venezuelan, is a mixture of black, white and Indian. But that just made her more suspicious of his ethnicity. All of my friends, especially the Italian ones, said there’d be no chance of changing her mind.
On November 20th, 2007, Sofia came into the world. Five months later, she, my daughter and son-in-law moved back to this country from Holland. My mother came for an extended visit a few months later. When I picked her up from the airport, I brought Sofia with me. She sat with her great granddaughter in the back seat all the way home, playing with her, talking to her, singing to her, and laughing outloud with her. My mother was fascinated that Sofia could imitate her, and proclaimed her a genius.
Within seconds, Sofia, in her innocence had won over a woman, who had, for 89 years of life, as she puts it, known how the races were supposed to behave. Without speaking a word, without any argument whatsoever, and without my mother even knowing it, a little baby had completely transformed one woman’s entire belief system. I don’t know if Sofia is a genius, but I believe, no, I am sure, that in her lifetime others will be transformed, by her complete lack of self-consciousness about race, which is to say, her innocence. And may that same innocence be rekindled and preserved in all of us for the betterment of mankind.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.