The other day I experienced something quite profound in human nature. I was at a football match with my 15 year old son Dom to see his team who were playing really badly and were looking like they were going to get beaten by a far better team.
As my son got more and more tense at the prospect of the pasting we were witnessing I had tried and failed to console him. During the match I noticed a young toddler with a dummy in his mouth who probably hasn’t even started speaking in the row in front of us. He had no interest in the game but instead was facing Dom who was upset and visibly (and vocally) stressed at what was happening on the pitch.
I continued to try to calm him down and try to put things into perspective as his dad – I just made it worse (isn’t that what dad’s of teenagers are for ?). As the game went on I saw Dom motioning to the boy in front as he tried to move the toddlers hand which was reaching out and touching his leg and Dom complained that he kept doing it. I realised then what was going on. As he looked into Dom’s eyes I could see that he recognised his emotions and that he was going through something painful. So without even realising it he empathetically was trying to reassure Dom. He didn’t have words to say but he knew someone was upset and rather than be bound by social conventions he reached out to try and reassure my son that everything was going to be OK.
About a year ago my wife and I laughed at the bizarrely inappropriate language when trying to get a running watch fixed and all the emails from the customer service thanked her for “reaching out to them” when actually all she wanted was for a broken watch to be fixed. During that match a toddler with a dummy in his mouth and an inbuilt sensitivity to human emotions helped me experience what reaching out can really look like. It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. Let’s not forget that children are just as much a part of our village (or cities). Maybe we should watch and learn more from children if we are all to be raised.