Photo courtesy Fe Langdon, available under Creative Commons on Flickr.
On being authentic
My son loves to talk to strangers. He starts conversations in buses, parks or shops, on playgrounds or even when passing-by a stranger. He has always something to share, discuss or ask about. As a child, he likes to get attention. Yet, at the same time, he gives attention as well. Grown out of his curiosity.
My son is truly interested in people and the world around. He is especially curious about things or behaviors that are new to him.
He wants to know. Immediately. No waiting possible.
He is truly authentic. He has no borders, no limits and no pre-conceived expectations. It is me now and then who jumps in and establishes some rules for him to obey. For instance, I keep telling him to start a conversation in a polite way. His usual approach is pretty direct: “Hey you, what are you doing?” or “You… you… what are you carrying inside?” or “What’s your name?”
“Is it the way to condition him for life?” I wonder at times.
My son especially adores tipsy (or drunk) men and grandma-like ladies. While the later choice is perfect for me, I find tipsy men uneasy. There is something sleazy about them. Yet, the recent few encounters blew me away. I will share with two of them as the other ones are similar.
In the first scenario we were walking on a street and there was a tipsy man at a distance. My son was staring into the eyes of this stranger. With total attention. It has taken us good 10 seconds or more before we approached him. The man was clearly disturbed by my son’s interest. He couldn’t stand this silent attention and asked my boy reproachfully “Why are you looking at me, you, little boy?”, “Why do you dare so?”. My son answered “Because I really like you.”
The man got flabbergasted. He couldn’t say a word for a while.
In another scenario, my son picked up a stranger and chose a nearby seat. He started a conversation about my hometown, travels, toys, lego, building, playgrounds and so on. The man happily joined in. My son asked the guy “Are you a good man? You know … because my mum doesn’t like me to take up with bad men.” The guy nodded approvingly. 😉
The conversation seemed to please both of them. At some point the man asked my son, “Why are you talking to me?”. And my son answered: “Because I know you are a nice man. I really like you.”
The man was moved. He couldn’t say a word for a while.
Both men got shocked. The words they spoke after a silence were: “It has been years for me since I heard somebody telling me to like me. Just like you.”
They got tears in their eyes. Their defenses melted away and they both stood before us as real humans.
Open. Vulnerable. Liberated.
I was surprised by such responses. I followed with little conversations. The men told me how much their kids stopped paying respect to them. How bad their lives were. How little hope they had. Yet, … at the same time, I saw a spark in their eyes. A little light that shines from acknowledgement and appreciation. It was beautiful.
I have been touched myself by these (and a few more) encounters. As a result, I’ve stopped interfering and conditioning my son on how to lead conversations. I just keep remembering that being authentic is transformational. The power of a real, unadulterated connection with another human is priceless.
It is touching the Core. It is liberating the Spirit. It is changing Life.
The next time when you make yourself or your child to conform to the norms, just pause and let things be the natural way. Perhaps a real transformation is behind the corner….