The answer it gives is “To make the world beautiful.” The book takes a literal approach to beauty, which is where it falls short, because it misses the opportunity to teach that real beauty lies not in external appearance but rather that true beauty stems from what is inside. The book misses the opportunity to teach children that to make the world beautiful, a person has to act beautifully—with compassion, mercy, grace and charity toward others.
When I was a little girl, my mother was continually telling me “pretty is as pretty does.” Years passed before I really understood what that meant, but the saying is true. All the external beauty in the world is meaningless if it is not accompanied by a heart that is moved to act out of compassion, mercy, kindness and charity.
I performed an internet search using the three words “compassion, mercy and kindness” and scrolled through the first five pages of search results. I found websites representing every major and minor faith, atheist, and other spiritual practice. So apparently, no matter where a person falls on the faith/nonfaith continuum, compassion, mercy and kindness are highly valued. Yet they are rarely practiced.
My maternal grandmother used to say that you should never judge another person until you walk a mile in her moccasins. When I truly put myself in another person’s shoes, think about what it would be like to drive that person’s commute, go home to that person’s husband, or that person’s empty house, or that person’s stack of bills, or that person’s medical problems, my perspective on that person’s behavior changes, often dramatically, and I find myself wanting to reach out and lift up rather than cut down.
Life is too short to spend it cutting people down. Yet we gossip, send links to vicious videos and articles that are personal and often baseless attacks on people, and fling bumper-sticker style insults without a second thought. We turn a blind (or scared) eye on bullying at all levels and ages. We spend a lot of time on the negative activity of tearing down and very little time on the positive activity of building up.
We don’t seem to be able to keep our mouths shut. We don’t seem to be able to go through our daily lives without sarcasm and nastiness. We can’t talk through disagreements because we aren’t willing to walk the mile in his moccasins that it would take to meet him halfway.
I suspect the old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” was penned by someone who had been very deeply hurt by words. Words hurt. They can do untold damage. The wounds are rarely visible, but they are often deep. What we say and write can be the most unkind, unmerciful things we can do.
Alternatively, what we say, every word that we speak, can make the world more beautiful. Our words are windows into our hearts.
Just the other day I was walking at lunch. The day was sunny and warm and the birds were singing. As I walked past the Hospice Care facility, I commented to a nurse who was also taking a lunch time walk about the nice day. She agreed, and followed it up with the comment, “and you have a beautiful smile.”
Those simple words made my world a more beautiful place.
So I conclude this column with a simple child’s question: Why are we here?
And I provide the answer: To make the world a more beautiful place by sowing the seeds of compassion, kindness, mercy and charity every day.
Can we do it?
© 2011 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.