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How our kids remind us to look for the good in people, life

When I am completely frantic, desperately fighting for pole position in line at school drop-off, sipping on a cup of tepid coffee while barking orders at the children in my backseat like I am Churchill, I try to remember what it was like spending my days with my daughter when she was 3. It always seems to bring me back home to a nostalgic place I wish I could stay forever.

She used to invite the checkers at Costco to her house to watch “Curious George.”

She talked all the time and I do mean all … the … time about everything she loves.

“I love bananas. Bananas are so tasty. I love doggie kisses. Doggies are so silly. I love our toaster. I love Alvin. I love Simon.” And, you guessed it, “Theodore too.”

She was 3. I was, well, “significantly” older than her and I am seriously beginning to think that she might have been smarter than me. Not like book-smart, calling the credit card company to get a lower interest rate smart, but life-smart. She looked for the good in people and in life without even the slightest thought that it might not be there or that her love for everything and everyone might be unrequited.

She was without agenda, without any sort of ulterior motive. Anywhere we were, she would spread her happy. She never ran out of it, and it never waned.

In these trips into the world, I was my typical guarded self, keeping my eye out for anyone suspicious-looking, hoping the new neighbors don’t steal our furniture. She was constantly telling me, “Momma, say hi. Say hi to the friend!” while pointing at an unsuspecting person knocking on watermelons in the produce aisle. And I would blush and put my head down a bit trying to steal a look at the person she is urging me to “make friends” with while they do their best to ignore the crazy-yet-adorable kid in the cart.

We both felt the weirdness and for a nanosecond it was uncomfortable. I looked at my daughter’s face with her expecting eyes, waiting for me to reach out. I forced myself to stop being an adult with insecurities, mostly being afraid they would ignore me. What would I do then? Well let me tell you, it has happened many a time. Guess what? Life went on.

This leads me to wonder, what happens to us that somewhere along the way that makes us stop doing this? Why don’t we smile at every person we see? Why don’t we greet everyone in the hopes that they might eventually be a friend? Where along the way to we become so scathed and jaded to feel like we have to stop greeting life with wild abandon and start treating it with question and doubt?

My point is this: Smile at people, even if they don’t smile back. Be happy about things like sunshine, chocolate milk, sprinkles on top of doughnuts or just about doughnuts in general. Greet the unknown with a smile and a wave. Spread the happy.

And next time you see a 3-year-old blonde kid in the grocery store and she says “Hi,” return the favor. It might just make both your days.