I have been struck anew, this past week, over the tenderheartedness of my two daughters. Though, to be sure, their emotions are shown in different ways.
Boo, age 6, was watching The Lion King the other day. She came up to me, scared, but dry-eyed, when Mufasa the king was thrown off the cliff to his death by his own brother, Scar. I held her, and together we weathered the injustice of the jungle out there.
But her indignation at Scar’s behavior was not done. Later, at the end of the movie, as Scar is trying to convince a young Simba that it is his, Simba’s fault, that Mufasa died, Boo suddenly shouted from her place on the couch. “Dummy head! Double Dummy head!”
That, to Boo, is high abuse indeed.
I must say, I loved that what came out of her mouth in that moment of unguarded behavior was something so benign…and yet so full of truth.
She knew, though perhaps could not articulate, that the “jungle out there” is, truly, the jungle we all live in every day.
I couldn’t help but think of our other daughter, now age 11, who behaved much the same way when she was Boo’s age.
She was sick that day, as I recall. She liked the movie, followed it along, understood – for the most part – what was going on. But every so often she would turn to me and ask, “Why is that woman so mean? What did Sara do to deserve that?”
I suppose I said something about injustice in the world. About bad people. About things not always working out the way we wish.
But then came the end – the part where Miss Minchin lies and denies that the amnesiac man is Sara’s father. And our daughter stood up on the couch and cried, “NO! NO! He is her father!” And she cried and cried and cried and could not be consoled.
Her tender heart has not changed over the years. Just now, at age 11, she came upstairs in tears. It’s well after bedtime, but she’s caught up in her book, Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, and Beth, the sweet, kind sister, just died.
“Why do we care so much about storybook characters?” she asked me through her tears.
Because we love them, my sweet girl. Because books have power to change our lives. Because you have a kind and gentle heart and when you cry over injustice and sorrow and sadness in the books you read, you are really crying over the things in this world you have not yet faced, but you know are real. You know they could happen, and you weep for those they have happened, and will happen, to. You weep for the imperfections of the world. You weep because you are not an island. You are a part of the continent, a piece of the main.*
Never send to know, my darling girl, for whom the bell tolls.
It tolls for thee.