This I Believe
I believe in babies. I was never able to conceive, so we adopted two babies who tamed me, taught me, and introduced me to their playmates—like the boys I saw in a child-care class.
While they waited for the teacher, the nine-year-olds looked embarrassed, bored, distracted, as if they wished they were somewhere else, throwing stones into a pond maybe. Their after-school faces were dirty, their clothes typically messy, an untied shoe, a stained t-shirt.
I’ve no idea what inspired their venture into this child-care territory. Perhaps the boys needed a badge for scouts. The lure could have been a promise for easy money in baby-sitting jobs.
The youngsters wandered around the classroom, restless, touching the tables and chairs, books in a stack, shelves of paper. They punched each other, laughed. Mostly, they seemed anxious about what would happen in a Red Cross Child-Care Class. I could imagine their protests to their mothers the night before. I changed my mind! I forgot I have baseball! I think I have a cough!
They were probably expecting a lecture about safety rules like don’t let babies play around water; don’t leave babies alone; don’t let babies put their fingers into wall sockets. Whatever they looked forward to, the boys didn’t get what they expected.
I can still see their startled faces when the door opened and into the classroom came three mothers carrying babies that they deposited in front of the boys. The astonishment was priceless, as if the boys had been visited by Harry Potter waving a magic wand. They’d been entrusted with real, living beings.
One of the boys shouted, “Oh boy! Babies!” and the class began. Everyone was excited and interested.
“It’s much easier to wash a baby than a dog,” one boy said as he held a baby in a tub.
“I’ve always loved babies,” said another. “I think they’re the smallest most cutest things you can have.”
I believe in babies because of visions like that. The boys’ pleasure when touching babies took my thoughts away from the brutal side of life. The scene reminded me that not all young boys will be recruited to be child soldiers in the jungles of Sri Lanka, or the deserts of Darfur. Some young people can be caretakers of the vulnerable among us.
I’ll take my hope even farther and say that if boys hold in their arms a living baby, sensing the innocence and the helpless needs of a tiny human being, they might not give in to the influence of fanatics who would teach them to be suicide bombers. It could be that the hysterical seduction of fanaticism looses its power when we’ve felt the warmth of a beating heart next to ours. Call me naïve, simplistic, but I saw what I saw, and my belief in possibility has soared.
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