The last few years, many of us have complained that our civic leaders (recent examples: Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer) as well as other adults we know, act like children.
Well, maybe they really should.
Or at least take stock of themselves as one 8-year-old boy. Some time ago, a young man named Henry scribbled a short set of rules that could be viewed as a code of conduct, a self-assessment, or both. His mother found the paper when cleaning around the house, and posted it on her Internet blog, where I found it.
While the commentary is mine, the eight rules (below, in quotes) are exactly as I found them online, in the boy's handwriting, spelling included:
Let there be world peace
As an old soldier, I appreciated this opening salvo. In one all-encompassing swipe, a mandate for ending all wars and living in harmony can't go wrong. Of course, it's easier said than done. Human conflict seems to be endemic, almost ingrained in our DNA. Nevertheless, from a collective standpoint, a little serenity would do humanity good.
Let there be equality among men and women
This tells me several things. The boy's household is a dynamic environment where the mother and father have defined roles yet pitch in for each other as required, without hesitation. You have to admire his sense of awareness of society's big picture.
At age 8, my view of the big picture was my bike, the kitchen table, and a comic book collection. Oh, and Kimberly, the beautiful blonde sitting next to me in class.
Ego's cause suffering
Yes, they do. As someone who stumbled over his considerable sense of self countless times as a youngster, I can attest to the following: While confidence is good, having a big head is not. Even though youth brings with it impulse, bravado, and all kinds of inexperience, to see a boy admit it should make the rest of us hang our heads.
Being kind ends suffering
This statement is so loaded, from the jocular to the sublime. Its premise, though, is no joke. Suffering is a vastly broad concept, encompassing poverty, hunger, abuse, and a myriad of maladies that can, as our young scribe advised, be wiped away with the broad brush of benevolence - whatever form it takes.
From the mouths of babes, indeed.
The bible proves faith
Clearly the boy is growing up with spiritual guidance - in this case, that of the Judeo-Christian persuasion. In the highly subjective, personal, and often polarizing and controversial world of global religious fervor, the statement's simplicity speaks volumes to the moral potential within all of us, regardless of individual beliefs.
Do not drink or smoke
Look, I like a glass of wine with my dinner as much as the next person, or a frosty brewski on a hot day. But I was the son of a chain smoker who repulsed me by the practice, and had to live in a perpetual cloud of tobacco smoke. Yet, in legal recreational matters of personal choice, I always contend to each his own, and excess will lead to consequences - as they did for my father. Enough said.
Belive the bible
See comments above. We could do a lot worse.
You are born with three things: your body, your belief and your soul
Coming from an 8-year old, the insight is stunning. As a professional writer and a teacher of college writing, one thing I work on diligently, and emphasize to my students, is the importance of closing. The end of a piece needs to leave the reader with a lasting impression. The purpose or lesson therein carries on in the mind's eye to see another day, and be passed along.
With his closing line, young Henry left me speechless. As I tell my students, spelling is the easiest thing to fix, but you can't fake the substance. He didn't fake a thing.
So maybe all of us can take a page out of this boy's scribbly notebook. His parents should have been rightly proud when coming across these musings. Maybe in a few years he can write the book on how to tackle this strange journey called life.
Adults among us, take notice.
Telly Halkias is an award-winning freelance journalist. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @TellyHalkias.