Today in the supermarket a mom was naming things for her toddler. “That’s a lobster. See the lobsters? Say ‘Hi, lobsters!'” And the toddler obediently waved a greeting and tried to say “lobster.” We learn the properties of things as we learn their names: in this case, lobsters are crab-like things with big rubber bands around their claws stuck in a fish tank in the seafood section. And some of that is true about lobsters and some is not. But when you are less than two-years-old, you go with what you know and there is little room for ambiguity.
The other day I had a similar experience. I was out for lunch with my friend’s preschool-age son, who looked out the window at the piles of dirt-covered snow. This is snow that has completely lost its pure, ground-covering pristine beauty and has, after five or six months of being around, become old snow. “Look at that snow,” I said with a sigh.
“That’s not snow,” he said to me with absolute certainty. “That’s garbage. A garbage truck must have dumped that there.”
I look into my soul and wonder how to name the person I am becoming. There are times I’d like someone to give me that same kind of clear-cut reminder: “That’s not snow.” Or, “That’s not who you are—you are better than that.” Better than the pile of petty insecurities and resentments that often haunt me. Better than the selfish, inward-curving weariness that keeps me from the joys of knowing others. “That’s not who you are.”
And then I could remember once again what snow and I were made to be.