When asked if she would like to do the honors, Allie began, "Dear God, thank you for Jeffy, and Mommy, and..." and she proceeded to give thanks for each person sitting around the table, and also for the food we were eating, but it was something else she said in the midst of giving thanks that really stood out.
"I love everyone in the world."
The more I have gotten to know Allie, the more amazed and inspired I am by what a big heart resides inside that precious four-and-a-half-year-old girl.
Allie hugging a friend at preschool
When Allie meets someone new, she is usually very shy at first. But it doesn't take long for that shyness to pass. And when a new person comes into her life and treats her with love, she returns that love many times over. She makes sure that person knows how loved they are. She'll spontaneously launch herself at friends or family members to give them ferociously intense hugs. (Recently she did this while I wasn't looking and knocked me onto my back from my seated position on the floor!) EB is the most frequent target of Allie's affections (I adore Allie's random proclamations of "I love you, Mama!") but Allie is always sure to spread the love around. When we were leaving my parents' house after our Labor Day weekend visit, Allie gave each person there a drawing she had made that weekend. On the back of mine, she wrote my name and her name and drew several hearts around them. This has become a common practice for her and it's so incredibly sweet.
Allie's caring spirit is not limited to people she knows. One of the most amazing things that happened over the weekend came in the bounce house that had been rented for the annual block party on the street where I grew up. Allie spent a lot of time jumping around in the bounce house and it was a joy for me to see her joy. My favorite part, though, was her interaction with a younger boy who ventured into the bounce house that was mostly occupied by larger (5-8-ish) children. Some of the play was pretty wild, and some tears were shed after collisions, although no serious injuries occurred. Realizing that the risk was greatest for the smallest child there, Allie immediately took it upon herself to watch after the little boy. She gave him gentle guidance to be careful in the bounce house. She kept an eye on him when he was in there. She helped him up when he fell. After one fall (not a serious one), she reached out to him and with love and concern in her voice said the sweetest, most adorable thing: "Are you all right, little fella?"
Although the number of people in the world is far too large for Allie to grasp, I fully believe her when she says that she loves everyone in the world. Love comes easily to young children. It's much more natural than hate. Allie, though, stands out with her huge capacity for caring and love and affection. One thing that I have been so struck by in my time with Allie is the amazing sponge-like quality of young children's minds and the way they take in everything they see and experience and reflect that back into the world. Allie's bigheartedness is a tremendous affirmation of what a wonderful person EB is, for EB has been by far the largest influence on Allie, and Allie would not have such a loving nature if she had not had a great example to follow.
We should all consider this when we spend time with children. It breaks my heart to think of the children who are growing up in households where a person who mocks the disabled, brags about grabbing women by the pussy, and dehumanizes immigrants (to name just a few items from a depressingly long list) is considered someone to be admired. Love comes more naturally to children than hate, but if they are inundated with demonstrations of hate, that's going to be hard to overcome. As much as we can, we need to demonstrate love and compassion to all the children we meet, whether they are our own or strangers. Every significant interaction with a child is a powerful opportunity to help shape what sort of person that child becomes.
I shared the story about Allie and the "little fella" on Facebook and concluded my post, "The world needs more Allies in it." Then it occurred to me the two different ways that "Allies" could be pronounced. With either pronunciation, my statement rings true. More Allies. Less hate. More love.