In recent weeks, I said that first graders tend to have predictable values when it comes to working. Ask a room full of first graders what they want to be when they grow up (which I have done), and you’ll hear about policemen, firemen, doctors, and all manner of jobs concerned with courage, bold living, and helping people. I also said that while some of us grow up to do these sorts of things, most do not—but I did not take the thought much further at the time. Today, I want to do exactly that. I want to talk about why we are so fascinated by heroic or even self-sacrificing jobs when we are young, and what changes as we grow older.
In fact, at least one ancient manuscript paints a child’s heart as something to aspire to. But we must be careful not to take that too far. Children, for example, have not yet had time to grow out of their pain/pleasure programming. They are easily excited by things like candy or video games, and they tend to have a low tolerance for pain, and especially for boredom. We are certainly not meant to duplicate a child’s inexperience… but growing older doesn’t only mean growing more knowledgeable. Sometimes maturity comes with scars. Sometimes pain and hardship wear away parts of us that we would have liked to keep, or sours parts of our lives that used to give us joy.
We speak from time to time about a child’s faith. Children tend to be naturally idealistic and optimistic about the future, if for no other reason than that they don’t know any better. Many people even associate idealism in general with youthful naivete, and see cynicism as a more fashionable and “rational” alternative, since it is based on evidence in the present, instead of hope for the future. Now, by no means should we dismiss the real-world problems that we do face. But idealism—reaching a little higher for the future—has always been an act of faith.
If there is one thing to take away from a child’s perspective, it must be this effortless optimistic belief: that people are basically good, that truth will out, and tomorrow will be a good day. For them—at least for those of them that have not been forced to grow up before their time—this may simply be a result of their limited experience. But for us, it must be a deliberate pursuit. Not to turn a blind eye to the evil and suffering in the world, but a determination to be sincere, loving, and hopeful… even at risk of looking foolish.
Have a blessed, wonderful day!
Dr. Alex Loyd