In a deep-clean today, I came across this paper I wrote last summer in an English class compassion workshop. It’s about my niece Gracie, who is now just a few weeks from being a hilarious, curly-headed two-year-old rather than being the little 15-month old in this story. She now lives an three hours away instead of one. But she still teaches me just as much, and I needed this memory today.
“My niece Grace is 15-months old, tall for her age with a little smattering of hair that is maybe red or maybe blonde, but probably both. It’s hard to know at this point. She moves like a child much older, unbelievably fast, incredibly naughty, but heart-wrenchingly sweet. She knows so many words and communicates so clearly that I think of her less like a baby and more like my friend.
I was there the day she was born, an act of compassion extended from her mother to me as I eagerly anticipated becoming an aunty, and an act of compassion from me to my sister as she braved the pain and sacrifice of motherhood for the first time. I will never forget the feeling I had holding her for the first time, her dark eyes perfectly alert and perfectly focused on my face. I felt that somehow she knew everything about me, and accepted me to be one of the women raising her despite that.
Grace lives an hour away from me, and although I still see her once a week, I miss her every day.
This week, for some reason, Gracie asked to see pictures of me first thing each morning and then asked for me all day. The videos were enough to make my heart simultaneously sing and burst with sweetness. With my husband out of town for work, I couldn’t resist a quick trip north last night to see my little buddy. As we played this morning and I listened to her chirp my name and tell me about all the things and people in the room, I also heard her simple sermon on compassion.
Climbing into an empty laundry basket, she attempted some kind of balance-beam, surf-board sort of move on the side and did not stick the landing. Instead of crying, she softly stroked the resulting red spot on her face and let out a low moan, acknowledging her pain to herself. Then she turned to me, and in her tiny voice said, “He’ me. He’ me!” with her arms stretched up. I picked her up and held her, her velvety-soft, rolly-poly arms wrapped tight around me, and thought of the multitude of compassion she’d just displayed.
Grace first showed compassion to herself, then asked for it from me, trusting that she was safe to ask and trusting I had the capacity to give it. And although I was the one comforting her, I realized what an act of compassion it was and is that she believed I could provide help, and asked for it. It made me feel useful, loved, and trusted to know that my arms and my friendship and my face are a safe place in her little life. That she trusted me to help was a greater help than the simple arms I could offer her.
She does this often, chirping out life lessons, flinging out sunshine and joy and help and love almost recklessly with her little dimpled hands wherever she goes. My world is so much better because of her, and my ability to feel and recognize compassion has increased tenfold since she came into my life. I love our visits and the dose of Grace – both capital G Grace and lowercase grace – that she provides.”