This weekend, my 2 year old nephew taught me a lot about how I wish to be.
I was visiting with my brother and sister in law at their vacation cottage where they had spent the week. It was their last day and my brother was outside packing the car. My nephew was looking out the window at his dad. "Dada" he said, "Help Dada."
"You want to help Daddy?" I said.
"Ya" he said, "Help Dada."
I got a canvas tote and told him to pick up all the toys he saw and put them in the bag so we could give it to Daddy to put in the car. He lit up and proceeded to run around the house, grabbing every toy he could find. "Football" he said, "Shovel. Cookie Monster."
When the bag was full, we took it outside to his Dad. "Dada" he said, "I helped!" He was just exploding with joy when my brother picked him up and gave him a big kiss saying "Thanks, buddy. You are a big help."
I brought him back inside and he proceeded to go back through the house, looking for more toys he may have missed. After he had spent a very long time in the bedroom being VERY quiet, I went to check on him. That's when I saw that he had found the picture his 7 year old sister had painstakingly drawn the night before of "Super Dog". He also found the crayons. He had scribbled all over the picture in that way that only 2 year olds with crayons can do. He looked up when I came in. "I help Kiki!" he said.
I scooped him up and brought him into the living room. I went over to his sister and explained to her that her baby brother had tried to do a very nice thing for her and help her with her picture. She went to investigate. I was steeling myself for screams to erupt at any second. Instead, she emerged from the bedroom, shrugged, and said "I'll just draw a new one."
Then she went over to her brother and have him a hug. "Kiki" he said, "I helped!" He gave his sister a big kiss.
Oftentimes in life, we second guess ourselves, telling ourselves that our actions are not good enough. We beat ourselves up for not living up to the ideals in our heads. We compare ourselves to others (always falling short). We replay events in our heads, going over and over the thing we could have done differently.
How often do we congratulate ourselves for simply trying? For having good intensions? Or pure motives? How often do we focus on the actions themselves instead of the less than perfect results?
This weekend, in the actions of a 2 year old, I saw none of that insecurity. I saw pure motives: "I help!" without the slightest hesitation or inkling of self doubt. He never once thought that maybe his Dad or his sister didn't want his help. He wanted to help, and he did. Not once did he question the outcome of his help. He didn't agonize that he wasn't working fast enough or packing the bag tightly enough. He didn't consider that he may have "ruined" his sister's picture. His entire focus was on how he could help.
Of course, everyone gladly accepted his help. Why wouldn't they? He's adorable! He made everybody feel good. And when they praised him for helping, he accepted that praise openly and willingly. He didn't shrug it off saying "Oh, it was nothing" or belittle his efforts "I'm not good at art, but I tried." Instead, he accepted the hugs and kisses, smiled, and reciprocated with hugs and kisses of his own. Everyone was happy.
How beautiful would life be if we all lived life that way? If we decided to help somebody and just did, without all our hang-ups or false modesty. If we didn't go round and round with the "should I or shouldn't I?" or "Maybe he doesn't want my help, I don't want to upset him." If we did things for the sheer joy with clear honest motives without second guesses.
How wonderful would the world be if we openly accepted thank you's and praise without making excuses or putting ourselves down? If we stood proudly and owned our actions and accomplishments? Would we all be a little happier? A little less stressed? I think we just might.
This weekend, I picked up my 2 year old nephew and gave him a big hug and a kiss on his head. I was thanking him, because he helped me.