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Journal: Teach Your Children Well

Note: This Journal entry was written on September 12th, 2001, as I walked on the Old Tokaido. Take a look at that day's Logbook for more.


Imagine a mother and baby coming toward you on the sidewalk. In almost every case, they are both facing you. The baby might be in a stroller, or in the extra seat of a bicycle. But this is crucial: you can see both of their faces, and they can both see yours, but they can't see each others'.

Got it?

Now, as I walk along I get a lot of reactions from a lot of people. Some smile, say "Konnichiwa," wave, even stop and chat. Others gape openly. Still others avoid eye contact completely: "Pretend the big gaijin (foreigner) in the goofy outfit isn't there and maybe he won't hurt us."

Now, I've noticed something. Almost without exception, when I meet a mother and baby together, whatever reaction the mother has, the baby has, too. Remember, they can't see each others' faces. If the mother smiles, the baby smiles. If the mother looks away, so does the child.

Is it nature, temperament? Maybe. Is the baby picking up Mom's vibes? Perhaps. But my gut instinct is this: moms teach babies what's good and what's bad. They don't necessarily do this with words: "Gaijin are good" or "Be afraid of gaijin." Rather they do it by example.

Every reaction we have teaches. Ponder this, and you'll see how enormous the implications are. Optimists train optimists; pessimists likewise. So what if we all worked on being realists, not judging everything as "good" or "bad" but just trying to see it as it is? Could we nurture a bunch of realists around us?

I wonder.

Posted September 25, 2019

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