The other day, I agreed to do some babysitting for a family friend. She has a lovely, sweet girl about 10 years old, which she asked me to take care of for a couple of hours.
Although it wasn’t the first time I was taking care of a kid, it has been a while since I’ve felt the magical influence children can have over you.
Any parent will tell you that having children changes your life forever, in both small and big ways. However, you don’t need to become a parent to feel a child’s positive impact; even an hour with one can change your mindset and make you develop a different perspective on life.
And that’s exactly what happened to me. Here are four powerful things that little girl reminded me about life.
1. Being Grateful for Every Little Thing
As adults, we often take some things for granted. We expect others to act in a certain way, offer us certain things, and talk to us in a specific manner. We forget to say thank you; we forget to show some gratitude.
We don’t always appreciate it when people go out of their way to please us. On the other hand, we sometimes demand from people around us to go out of their way for us — and get mad when they don’t — , even though we know how difficult it must be for them.
Overall, we’re used to putting ourselves and our needs first and expect others to do the same. Well, let me tell you that it’s extremely rare to find someone who will actually put your needs above their own. So when you do, you should appreciate them for that.
The little girl I took care of, appreciated every little thing I did for her. From giving her the last piece of a cake or my most comfortable chair to sit on to sitting with her a little longer even though I had other serious responsibilities to attend to.
And that’s how kids in general think. They don’t take things as granted as adults tend to do. Kids feel grateful for every little thing you do for them — and they don’t hesitate to show it.
The takeaway: That’s how each and every one of us should think and act. You know, stop taking things for granted. Stop taking other people for granted. Each little thing, each small gesture someone does for you, is important.
It doesn’t matter if it’s your mom, your sister, your partner, or your friend. Let the other person know you appreciate their gestures. Remember to say thank you. Remember to show some gratitude.
2. Saying Things as They Are
How many times did you find it difficult to express your feelings? Or wanted to say one thing and ended up saying the complete opposite out of fear of coming out wrong?
Well, that’s not the case with kids. They say things exactly as they are. They like something you gave them? They will tell you so. They don’t? They’ll also go right ahead and tell you. That’s a useful lesson we could all learn from children. As adults, we often hesitate to tell the truth, express our feelings, or be completely honest about a situation.
The takeaway: When we hide our true feelings, intentions, and thoughts we complicate things and give room for misconceptions and misunderstandings. But, once you start being honest with your feelings and sharing your real thoughts, things will automatically become much, much easier.
Saying what you feel isn’t rude. It’s real. And, as James Earl Jones once said:
“One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can’t utter.”
3. Being Generous and Not Constantly Thinking About Money
We live in a world that is obsessed with money. We’re all looking for ways to make more money and for ways to spend less — letting all these money-related thoughts fill our minds every single minute of our day.
And yes, I know that not having enough money can make things quite difficult. How many times did you see something you really wanted to buy but didn’t, because you wanted to save money?
This girl’s family is no exception to all the families all over the world that have taken a big financial hit due to the pandemic. To be fair enough, she’s just a kid; she doesn't have to pay bills or buy groceries.
But, she does understand that things have quite changed; she and her family have been going out less and less, she hasn’t bought new clothes or toys for a while. Yet, while we were playing together—interpreting a theatrical play — , she got overwhelmed with enthusiasm and started telling me all the things she wanted to buy for our time together. For me.
She was talking about kids’ stuff, like tiaras and wands. But that’s not important. What matters to me, is that she wanted to ask her mom for money in order to buy something for me, when she could use this money to buy more toys for her.
The takeaway: The older we get, the less generous we become. We think money can buy everything, so we try to save as much of it as we can. We sure as hell don’t want to spend it on others.
But that’s a huge mistake. Our relationships matter more than money. Money can’t buy the look on your partner’s face after you’ve bought them that thing they wanted for a very long time. Money doesn’t make you a better person. Giving to people does. All in all, as Voltaire once said:
“Don’t think money does everything or you are going to end up doing everything for money.”
4. Acknowledging That Bad Things Happen but Good Things Always Follow
The last — and for me the most important — thing that little girl reminded me, is that bad things happen in life. To each and every one of us. The good news? Good things always follow.
During our last thirty minutes together, and as we were making up a kids’ story, she told me that something extremely bad must happen to our heroine before an extremely good thing — in our story, the realization of her dream — follows. That’s, after all, how life works.
To be honest, she left me completely speechless. I’m not sure why. It seemed like something too deep and mature for a 10-year old to say. And something that due to currently having spent the roughest year of my life, I had completely forgotten.
You see, when bad things happen to us, we get overwhelmed with stress, we fall into depression. We’re constantly asking, why? “Why did that happen to me?” We go on thinking that life is painfully unfair and that we will feel awful for the rest of our lives.
Well, the thing is, we shouldn't ask ourselves why something bad happened to us. It doesn’t matter. It happened. The best move is to accept reality as it is and, most importantly, remember that nothing lasts forever.
The takeaway: Next time something bad happens to you, don’t start contemplating how unfair life can be, or how bad your karma is. Instead, try to remain calm and tell yourself that it’s only temporary.
Both the good and the bad things are part of life. Accept it. Going through the bad things is a learning process; you will overcome them eventually. What you need to remember is that after the rain, comes the rainbow. Be patient, and good things will come.
This story was originally published on Medium.