the only thing we have to fear

Watching a television program on the environment, I asked my husband if he worries about the health of the planet by the time our children are middle-aged. He said, “I worry, but there are other things I worry more about right now. It’s harsh out there. People are harsh. You try to teach your child principles, how to behave…”

“But you need them to understand a good defensive strategy, too,” I added.

“Yeah.”

I told him then about our daughter witnessing, just a couple days ago, a man eating food out of a wrapper in a parking lot, quickly, and then dropping the wrapper on the ground before he got in his car and drove away. Our daughter was shocked. She could not get her mind around why somebody would litter. She went on about it for a solid three minutes–a pretty long time for a seven-year-old talking to me and her five-year-old brother.

“There are people out there who don’t think that what they do matters,” I offered. “They don’t think it affects other people, or the planet. They just don’t think that anything they could do on their own would bother anybody else. There are people out there like that. It’s almost like they don’t think they matter,” I said.

“Well, littering is really bad.”

“Yes, it is.”

I told my husband I was almost sorry to see her understanding of the world challenged, but also, in a way, relieved. Relieved that she’s seeing that people don’t always do things that make sense.

Because it happens, on a near constant basis. It scares me.

But as long as the kids know that it’s what they do that matters, how they react to senselessness, that they always have control over themselves. They always have a choice… As long as they know that, I’m less scared. For them.

But as for the rest? All those out there that don’t see their own behaviors as contributing to a larger pattern, a greater impact? They terrify me.

I was encouraged though, that our daughter did not conclude that the littering man was bad or scary. She just thought he did the wrong thing; he just didn’t know that it was wrong to litter… that if he just knew what it meant, he would do the right thing.

Sometimes, I wish so hard that I were seven, and fearless. And confident.

What do you think?

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