My 5-year-old daughter and I had just buckled into the car, headed home after a morning playground adventure in Philadelphia, when the questions started flowing.
After we go somewhere, I like to talk to her about what we just did and ask her about her favorite and least favorite parts. Call it an exit interview of sorts that helps me learn more about who she is becoming and help me be a better parent for her.
I began with the highlight of the day and worked my way toward what she didn’t enjoy, which is when she gleefully screamed “NOTHING!” and pumped her arms into the air. Then there was a pause and some silence followed by a much heavier question directed back at me.
“Daddy, what is hate?”
My stomach dropped. I gripped the wheel tighter. My gut reaction, since we had been at a playground, was an unseen interaction maybe behind the rock wall or while she waited for a slide out of my line of sight. Did another child say something to her?
I asked her, “Why did you want to know? Did someone say it to you?” She was quiet so I assumed the worst.
I was relieved to find it came from a show she as watching on the iPad where the character expressed her disgust while doing household chores. The offending phrase was “I hate doing the dishes!” but never hearing that publicly from her parents, I could see the reason why she wouldn’t understand the ire behind doing a required task.
Too strong a word even for dishes
How quick was I to think the worst and to become angry and defensive. How quick it was that I had turned to hate. To hate something like doing the dishes should be replaced by “I dislike doing the dishes.” Hate is a word that my daughter should not know to describe anything. Hate is too strong a word even for dishes.
This had me thinking. In this increasingly violent world, children need to learn more about love than hate. In this world today, hate is a thing we are quick to act on. We assume the worst in people instead of the best.
Love takes time. Hate is too easy. We turn hate on like the flick of a switch or, all too often, the trigger of a gun.
Hate is fueled by misconceptions and a lack of acceptance for people who look, act or seem different to us. Racism, bigotry and hate run deep in our own country’s government. A government that is supposed to be setting the example for freedom and equality for the people and by the people.
We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal. It’s a lie. Equality is a farce. Women don’t get paid the same as men. People are profiled because of the color of their skin or where they were born. We automatically assume the worst without ever knowing what is in their heart.
Black men are gunned down daily because the automatic assumption is that they are a threat. A sudden movement can mean your life and they have to live theirs in fear of the very people that should be protecting them. I can’t imagine what it must feel like, to see a patrol car behind you and wonder, “Is this the day I am going to die?”
We have a president who hates. He wants to keep us separated into neat piles like a picky child’s plate separated by walls of intolerance and fear. He’s wrong. When we come together in love and respect, we create a whole new flavor. If your first instinct is to assume the worst in people, our country will never be unified.
All you need is love. Love is all you need.
Love too often comes with a price
When I think back to a time when I felt like there was an outpouring of love, it always seems to come with a price. The attack on September 11th was meant to divide the country but made it stronger. Not because of hate or a lashing out in anger when we retaliated but because of love. People have a tendency to show their humanity when they realize that it is fragile. There wasn’t a divide in race, age or sex. We helped everyone and anyone no matter what they looked like because they were just people. People trying to come together as a nation and survive an attack, one of the most horrific attacks on our home soil.
Yet despite our ability to come together and persevere together beyond age or race or any other characteristic that defines our outside selves, our walls eventually were put back up.Walls are not the answer. Only when walls come down will love grow in our hearts.
I don’t want my children to grow up ignorant. I don’t want them to hate first and ask questions later. I want them to see the good in people and accept that hate is never the answer. I don’t want their first instinct to be distrust as we’ve come too far as a country to regress to that. Hate is too easy. Love takes time and it’s time well spent.
I decidedly put my daddy bear claws away and told my daughter that that word should never be uttered when it came to people. I asked her how she would feel if someone said she it to her.
“If someone said they hated me, I would be sad,” she said.
There is truth in the old Jedi mantra that hate is the path to the dark side. I’ve walked that path before and it leads nowhere. There will be many things she will dislike in her life. There will be people who will wrong her and she will feel hurt, and as much as we will want to hate them, hate serves no purpose in this life.
Love more, hate less. Be compassionate. Be helpful. Lift others up when they are too far down to get back up. This is how we love and when that four-letter word “hate” rears its ugly head, replace it with love instead.