My friend Stan called about yesterday's blog. He was laughing at the essay. I should mention again that we've known each other forever, he has license to give me a hard time, and he reads the essays daily. He has a very straightforward, fundamental way of addressing a point. This conversation took place over the phone this morning. He calls me "dude."
"Are you nuts? Three year olds? My kids not only didn't care about another kid, if Toys R Us had chainsaws for toddlers, they'd still be serving time in baby jail."
I told him about personality tendencies, scales of developmental measurements, and the empathy children expressed in the context of group or individual encounters, and he interrupted.
"Hey, it doesn't matter. I've got five kids. I've had both group and individual run-ins with my three year olds. I love them, I wouldn't trade them for the world, I am immensely proud of them, but I know my kids. Chainsaws, dude."
"Oh,yeah." Stan said, "You're scheduled to cover Selflessness. And you used a couple of examples, but you forgot to put a point on one that is close to my heart."
I knew what he was going to say. I'll let him tell you.
"My parents, as were yours, grew up in the Depression. And they didn't come out of the thing unscathed. But they learned something that the next generations seem to have missed: Life isn't about you. We were living in the collective. Hand me downs, dinners together, and getting along. We shared. We listened to each other. We learned to watch each other's back."
"In my family, my mother had her own way of selflessness. She perseverated. Worry was the musical score that my mother could hum in her sleep. But the focus was always on us. My father, as yours, was what they used to call "a stand up guy." He took care of my Mom, us kids, and never said a word about it. It was just what you did. My father never thought about himself. He worked for the family, he loved my Mom, and he never said an unkind word. They were a generation of 'stand up guys."
"Our uncles died in World War II. You know two Dad's from the neighborhood that were hurt in Korea. And, you can point out exactly the houses we passed on the way to school of guys that died in Vietnam."
"In the military, they held rank with their own family, each one needing the another to survive. They were looking out for the other guy, the other guys looking out for them. In their own way, they embodied the best part of the selflessness within a family, held together under incredible stress, making certain they didn't move together unless they were all together moving.
"Famulus," dude. Latin. Know what the root means?" I told him I didn't.
"Servant. In a family, we are there to serve."
"You want to talk selflessness, right?" Stan looked out at the parking lot, waved his finger in a circle pointing at the cars, and said, "This. Right here. WE are a family. All of us. We are here to serve each other with kindness, with our best selves. That's what it's about, dude. In hard times, in combat, but on the playground, in school, in work, and at home. We are, by definition from the spirit of the scholars, to serve one another in this family of the world."
"That's what selflessness is all about, Charlie Brown. The great world of family, all connected, all in need of each other."
"Famulus, dude. Famulus. We are here to serve. Can't serve unless you're focusing on the other. Pretty straightforward, dude."