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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

what's important, according to a 5 year-old

Yesterday, I was out in the front yard, wondering what to do about the lawn. A little 5 year-old boy (new to our neighborhood, I've never met him) rode his bike up our driveway, placed his bike down, walked up to me and said "Hello, how was your day today?"
I said "Hello, it was very nice. Thank you. How was your day?"
"Very good. I start kindergarten in two days. I met Mr. Miller my new teacher. He is very nice."
He told me his name was Ben. He asked me my name and he had more questions. 
Ben: "I see you every day walking your dog. Where is it?" 
Me: "She is inside napping. She just had a bath."
Ben: "How many babies do you have?"
Me:  "None, at the moment."
Ben: "Do you know my mom?" 
Me: "I do. I like her very much." (I've met her on my walks)
Ben: "Have you ever had tater tots and meatballs? Do you like them?"
Me:  "I like tater tots but I don't eat meat.
Ben asks why. I want to tell him that I don't eat animals but I don't want to undo any work his parents have done so I simply say "I don't like meat." He doesn't get that. He loves meat. "It's too bad," he says, "You're missing out."
Ben: "Where is your husband?"
Me:  "He's inside."
Ben: "Can I come see you tomorrow?"
Me:  "Well, I will be working but maybe. I don't have any toys though." 
Ben:  "I don't need toys. You're here and you have a dog.

That was it. He got back on his bike, waved and said "See you tomorrow, Taylor!" as he sailed away down the street and out of sight. 
I realized I just had a life lesson from a five year-old boy. Here is what I learned from Ben: 
There are just a few things to be concerned with in this life. As he asked his questions, Ben thoughtfully nodded to every answer I gave. According to Ben what he needed to know, what was important to him was this: 
Was I happy?  (How was your day today?)
Do I have people who I love and who love me? (Where is your dog, husband, babies?)
Food (Do you like tater tots and meatballs?)
Future happiness (I met Mr. Miller, my new kindergarten teacher, Can I come see you tomorrow?)

What Ben didn't realize in his sweet innocence was that he was proving Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs that drives every human being. 
1. Biological and Physiological needs - air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep.
2. Safety needs - protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear.
3. Love and belongingness needs - friendship, intimacy, affection and love, - from work group, family, friends, romantic relationships.
4. Esteem needs - achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, respect from others.
5. Self-Actualization needs - realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.

It was such a sweet conversation with a little boy but what left an impression on my heart was that Ben wasn't just concerned about himself. His first question was about my day. Was I happy? I thought about this. What if instead of being so focused on ourselves,we turned our thoughts outward? Do the people around us have affection, food, safety, stability? If not, what can we do to help them achieve what's lacking? Maybe it's a handwritten note with the simple words "You've got this!" or a gift card to a market anonymously left for them or maybe it's simply putting your cel phone down and giving a family member, friend or colleague your complete attention when someone is feeling down or insecure. What if someone else's needs were as important to us as our own?

As I watched Ben pedal away from me, I smiled and turned to go inside towards L and our dog. Nothing was more important to me than asking them "And how was your day today?"

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