A crowd instantly collected. Yells are very unusual at bazaars, and every one was intensely interested. It was several seconds before the three free children could make Mrs. Biddle understand that what she was walking on was not a schoolroom floor, or even, as she presently supposed, a dropped pin-cushion, but the living hand of a suffering child. When she became aware that she really had hurt him, she grew very angry indeed. When people have hurt other people by accident, the one who does the hurting is always much the angriest. I wonder why.
The children were gathered around the coffee table with coloring books and draped across the floor and the sofas in the evening lamplight as I read these words aloud from E. Nesbit's book, The Phoenix and the Carpet. I read on to the end of the chapter but my mind stayed on these words…when people have hurt other people by accident, the one who does the hurting is always much the angriest.
I don’t know about you, but for me this is true. I take one step backward from the refrigerator and step on the toes of a little one who was standing much too close. I pull a rake full of leaves toward me and bump the head of another curious child . What is it about children and their need to crowd a mother in motion? The trodding and banging is usually followed by words like, “Back up! You’re too close! Give me two inches of space!” And then, belatedly, a kiss on the head and a grumbled apology.
Stuart is compassionate by nature and I, by intention. The kids have been known to go running past me to their papa for hugs and kisses for scrapes and banged knees. I’m learning though. My husband sets a good example. I see the children melt in his arms, their loud cries become whimpers and then smiles. Tears still clinging to their lashes. It’s not so hard. I can do this, I tell myself. And I do. Faith comes crying from her bedroom, a hand clamped over her eyebrow. “A picture fell on my eye.” I don’t give her a safety lecture for she’s already learned her lesson. Instead, I sit her in my lap and kiss her forehead. The crying stops. She scoots away, comforted. A kiss is a powerful thing.
We had one. I don’t remember who, who demanded that we kiss exactly where she had been injured. “Not there. Here. No. Here!”
Stuart, in a moment of exasperation and genius said, “Here. Give me your hand.” He kissed her outstretched hand. “Now, rub the kiss where it hurts.” And that was the beginning of The Kissing Hand. The Kissing Hand makes short work of the sympathy ritual.
Magical powers dwell within the band-aid box. The kids just feel better if we cover an injury, real or imagined, with a band-Aid. They like to pick them out at the store. Scooby-Doo, Dora the Explorer, Curious George. A crying child settles almost instantly at the sight of the sticky, colorful strip of plastic.
The kids are learning from our example. Often, I will hear crying in another part of the house and by the time I get there a child has their arms wrapped around the wounded one. “Are you ok? Where did you get hurt?” That is an awesome sight.
This scene is being played out at this very moment. A game of softball in the backyard is interrupted by cries and concern, “Are you ok?” All the children gather round and pat Claire on the back. The game resumes a second later. What lessons these young ones are learning from our example. Compassion is contagious.