While waiting for his mother to schedule his next well-child appointment, a young boy sat in our clinic lobby engrossed in his new Reach Out and Read book. He and his family were new to our area, having just moved from Syria a few short months before the onset of the COVID pandemic. Across from him in our rather small clinic lobby sat a girl his age reading the same book next to her mother, also recent immigrants but from West Africa. Noticing what she was reading, the little guy tried to get her attention, and as she noticed, she lifted her book, turning it around to show him what page she was on. While it was difficult to discern their facial expressions underneath their masks, it was easy to notice their smiling eyes during this moment of bonding.
One of our nurses also noticed this sweet moment and commented, “Wow, didn’t know they were best buddies.”
“Best buddies? How could they possibly be best buddies?”
These were recent immigrants from different regions of the world who were both being seen by us for the first time. They most likely eat very different foods, speak different languages at home, and could not possibly have met in person given our current state of social isolation. But, somehow, they were able to establish a connection over a shared love for a book.
While definitely not perfect (ask any parent or teacher), children are blessed with the innate knowledge that everyone, regardless of race or background, is a friend and fellow child of God. But somehow we lose this knowledge as we get older. Why? This is probably due to many reasons, including how we are raised, our relationships within our families and who we encounter along life’s journey. But there is more. Children have an amazing ability to see the world around them with awe and wonder. Also, since children are innately dependent on others and know that they can learn from them, they accept their neighbors regardless of their perceived differences or imperfections.
A common trait of some of the great 20th century heroes for humanity, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Maximillian Kolbe, and many more, was that they realized that those around them were fellow brothers and sisters. These heroes realized that they had their own imperfect and flawed human natures, which then allowed them to view all around them with love and amazing self-sacrifice. These were ordinary people that elevated themselves and their communities with their humility, love, and compassion.
The current protests against racism, and discussions that these have led to, have definitely raised much-needed awareness of the racial injustices in our country. While laws will be passed, training implemented and changes made, as human history has shown us, these will not achieve their goals unless the hearts of all of us are also changed. We all need to humbly look at ourselves in order to see what we need to improve upon and then reach out to those we meet every day with love and respect. But remember, the reward is great: You too can become “best buddies” with those you meet. For “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Gabriella Gonzales is a pediatric resident. Alexander Rakowsky is a pediatrician.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com