When I was a little girl in 5th grade, my parents took me to Disney World. Dad had a business conference in Orlando and families were invited as well. One evening was dedicated to a corporate dinner, an event that the children were not permitted to attend. In lieu of the fancy dinner, the children were treated to their own evening of entertainment.
I remember the large conference-sized room in the hotel. It was filled with tons of activities for us. Games mostly, but some other cool opportunities as well. One of these was a guy who made balloon animals. Now, in the early 80’s, a guy making balloon animals was like hitting the kid lottery. Naturally, the line for the balloon animal booth was miles long but I wasn’t missing this perfect opportunity for anything in the world, I hopped right on the end of the line.
After waiting for what seemed like months, I estimated that I was about halfway to the balloon animal of my dreams. It was during the intricate planning session in my mind that I saw it…the PERFECT balloon animal. I must have been obviously drooling over it because it’s owner, a girl who was taller than me and flanked by other balloon-animal-carrying girls noticed me staring. She held the most beautiful balloon poodle I had ever laid eyes on. Well, it was the only one I had ever laid eyes on, but it was the one for me. So, naturally, I complimented the fine craftsmanship that was her pink balloon poodle. “Wow! I really like your poodle! It’s awesome!” I heard myself say.
In an instant, the girl and her entourage sauntered up to my place in line so I could get a better look at it. I admired it greatly and joy shone in my eyes. The girl, seeing this, said “Do you want it?” as she held it out for me to grasp. Did I want it? Do kids want to have candy for breakfast? I looked at my place in line then back to the girl. “Oh yes, thank you!” I shouted, reaching my hands out for the prize. She jerked her hands back and sneered “How’s it feel to want?” and walked away laughing along with the other girls.
I was gut punched. I didn’t let anyone see it though. I stayed in line and when it was my turn, I politely asked the balloon guy for a poodle. He pulled a brown balloon out of the bag and got to work. What luck, a BROWN balloon poodle! This was better than a silly old pink poodle any day. I was once again filled with joy and excitement as I walked away holding my perfectly shaped, brown balloon poodle. My first thought was that I couldn’t wait to show my parents!
Walking away from the booth I found myself coming up to the middle of the line. Wouldn’t you know it, there was a girl there who looked up at me and my balloon poodle and said “Wow! That’s a great balloon dog!” I had every intention of a repeat performance, this time with me in the starring role. In a second, a heat flushed over me, I walked over to the little girl and, in the same cocky way as my intimidator, asked her if she wanted it, and when her eyes connected with mine and she said yes…
I gave it to her.
My heart broke to see my beloved balloon poodle in her hands but I knew that in that moment, something was much more important than my poodle. I felt anger and embarrassment wash over me. I was not going to hurt this little girl. I was not going to continue the circle of hate. In my 10-year-old brain, I knew that the “something much more important” than a perfect, brown, balloon poodle was love.
Try to look at situations through a child’s eyes. Sometimes children really do know more than we do. We all have that ability, it’s a choice we make every day. When we work with clients it is sometimes difficult for them to change this perception. They are so entwined in the circle of hate that they may not even realize their behavior. It is our ability to connect with others and show them these things that slowly but surely changes a person’s circle of hate to a circle of love. It’s learning to release a type of negativity and instill peace, patience, and understanding. After all, is pride really worth a balloon poodle?
Sandi’s photo credits go to: