A family went out to a restaurant for dinner. When the waitress arrived, the parent gave their orders. Immediately, the five-year-old daughter piped up with her own: ‘I’ll have a hot dog, french fries, and a Coke.’ ‘Oh no you won’t, interjected the dad and turning to the waitress he said, ‘She’ll have meat loaf, mashed potatoes, milk.’ Looking at the child with a smile, the waitress said, ‘So, hon, what do want on that hot dog?’ When she left, the family sat stunned and silent. A few moments later the little girl, eyes shining, said, ‘She thinks I’m real.’
— Stories of the Spirit, Stories of the Heart: Parables of the Spiritual Path from Around the World, Jack Kornfield and Christina Feldman
In 2011, Cathy, a Gen-Xer, wrote a beautiful eulogy for her dear mother Susan who always believed her children were real.
“One of my favorite childhood memories is what I call ‘the mudpie story’,” Cathy wrote in a blog post, My Mother’s Eulogy. “I was about 3 or 4 years old and playing outside in the yard, sitting right at the end of a long hedge that went from the front door to the back porch. Of course, under that hedge was a big, awesome puddle of mud.
“From my vantage point, I couldn’t quite see the front door, but I could hear it open. I looked up suddenly to see my mother standing over me, looking down with no particular expression on her face. Then just as suddenly, she turned around and walked quickly back into the house.
“So what goes through a preschooler’s mind in that situation? Uh oh. I’m in big trouble. I know I must have been covered from head to toe in dirt and I was pretty sure her next move was to drag me off into a bath—or worse.
“But a few seconds later, I heard the door open again and my mother reappeared carrying pie tins, plastic spoons and plates. And she proceeded to sit down right next to me in that mud and make mudpies. (Fancy ones too, I might add—with leaves and berries and sticks for decoration…).”
More: Eulogy for A Mother
“Mom spent many years at home with me and Chris. She created a warm, loving “nest” for her family, she made our home an amazing place full of opportunities to learn (I’m thinking especially about the huge variety of pets she put up with, including a dog, several cats, fish, gerbils and my brother’s hermit crabs—ick!) Mom was a girl scout leader, an avid gardener who kept us stocked with fresh veggies, herbs & “sun tea” every summer, and a self-taught cook who graced us with meals from around the world— including Korean, Italian, French & Chinese cuisine.”
At the end of the tribute, Cathy asked everyone to do three things:
- Reach out to a child. Sit with them. Be in their world. Let them know they are real.
- Reach out to someone different. Maybe someone you don’t even like. Park your judgment. Invite them into conversation.
- Share these two ideas.