What Coloring with my Niece Taught Me

A few weeks ago, one of my sisters gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. As part of my efforts to help out, I’ve been spending a lot of time babysitting her 3-year-old, so she can focus on the newborn in the meantime.

Spending tons of time with a 3-year-old daily is teaching me more life lessons than I could have ever imagined. But to date, I have two favorite lessons:

The first came about when we were coloring, and she accidentally starting coloring outside the lines. A part of me was too lazy to make a fuss, she did after all mostly stay within the lines. And frankly, what did it matter? But I looked at the page and thought… why not make an artwork out of the “out of the line” colorings? And so we ended up with this:

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Far from a masterpiece, I know, but I looked at it and thought… life is like this too. Sometimes we make “mistakes” and go “out of the line” and think that our lives are too messed up to be fixed. But maybe it’s a matter of taking a step back and seeing from a wider perspective. Mistakes only appear to be irreparable if you zoom in on them and focus solely on them. But there is still a whole white, blank page outside the lines. There are always new avenues to discover, and new possibilities. The sun will always rise in the morning. Have hope. 🙂 But remember, as Einstein said: you can’t solve problems with the same mindset you used to create them.

The second lesson was something that took me a while to notice. Whenever we’d be doing crafts, whether drawing or painting or coloring, more often than not, she would at some point ask to switch pen / paint brush / crayon. A theory I came up with eventually was… maybe she noticed that my artwork was looking nicer than hers, and she felt that it was from me using a “better” pen / paint brush / crayon. The interesting thing of course was that all the pens, brushes, and crayons were the same. It was a matter of motor skills.

And perhaps this is how most of us feel about life: If only we had better this or that, we’d be able to do better. We use our lives chasing after “better” things and wishing we had them, but the truth is, we all have the “same” tools – at least in terms of usefulness. We are all given exactly what we need in life to grow the way we need to, so even if on the surface or physical level it appears we were given different things, the truth is that we all have “the same” things on the spiritual level. So instead of trying to get better physical things, perhaps a better approach would be to learn to use better the tools we are given – like for starters, understanding our own middot [character traits] better, and getting to know our own strengths and how to use what we already have to grow.

I’d like to end and summarize with this amazing story I recently received:

Charlie Chaplin told the audience a wonderful joke and all the people started laughing. Charlie repeated the joke and only a few people laughed. He again repeated the same joke but this time no one laughed. Then he said: “If you cannot laugh at the same joke again and again, then why do you cry again and again over the same worry?”

At the end of the day it boils down to that: Not worrying so much. Things will be okay. You do have everything you need to grow or if not yet, you have what it takes to obtain them. Mistakes can be fixed, if you just remember to be creative and look at the bigger picture (and apologize to those you have to, if you have to). Because, thank G-d, the sun will always rise in the morning. 🙂

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