My brother-in-law is six years old, and does the normal things of a child. The other day, he asked me a big question.
“What is life for?” His little boy eyes pleaded for an adult answer.
Fortunately, I had already thought up the answer. It was stored in my heart and came out quickly.
“Life is deciding how you are going to act. Are you going to be a nice person or are you going to be mean?”
He knew his answer and said, “I’m going to be nice to everyone. I already am.”
“Good.” I nodded with obvious pride in him. “That’s the best way to be.”
His mood changed immediately, and he resumed the carefree games of childhood. He didn’t see me release a big exhale in relief.
I remained on the couch and thought about this little brother. He had done me a great courtesy by asking this question when I was seated comfortably. If I had been standing, the quick whirlwind moment would have landed me on the ground, or in some other undesirable dimension.
He had come to me with a difficult question and trusted me.
I felt honored.
But even more than that, I felt like I answered his question correctly. I may have only answered one tenth of the question, but at least I got that part right.
There were hundreds of things I wanted to ask him, like:
- Where did you hear this?
- Why are you wondering?
- What’s bothering you?
But alas, the attention span of a little boy can be fleeting. Why worry about things when one is still allowed to do other things?
I will make sure he can always come to me with serious questions. Someday we will finish the conversation about the meaning of life.
I will tell him that we are here to learn. We are here to perfect ourselves and the world around us through the process of living.
We choose our response. We are not dependent on others’ perfection for us to be nice to people. We have the option to have grace, courtesy, and kindness. Life’s purpose is to make us better people.