There are still things worth celebrating

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The past 24 hours,with big men around the globe doing scary things, have brought me two encounters with sheer joy via small boys.

First there was Jax, whose dad has some extraordinary art in a show just opened at The Barber Lounge in San Francisco (Sam Lamott, emerging artist, you saw it first here. See illustration left, for proof.) Lots of emerging artists, great vibes, free beer……. but the big news of the day was that Jax had floated on his back. Jax is four, dark-eyed, camera-shy and equipped with a mop of furry black hair that, unfortunately, is not available for stroking by friends of his grandmother. But he will talk about floating.

“On your BACK? That’s scary.”

“Sort of.”

“Have you been floating on your front very long?’

“Yes, but not on my back.”

“Well, which do you like better?”

Sparkle in the dark eyes. “On my back. You can look up and watch.”

The next day I was pulling out of the driveway of our former house, where I’d stopped to visit with some old neighbors. A small person emerged from the car parking in front and a voice of utter delight said, “I lost a tooth!”

It was Finn, whom I have greatly missed since our move six months ago. Finn is seven, elfin-handsome and bright, endowed with a dimple that is going to spell trouble for a LOT of girls in another 10 or 12 years. He was holding the tooth out for inspection. The gap where the tooth had earlier resided — “I pulled it out in the car!” — was also proudly on display with a small-boy grin.

“Where’s Bud?” Finn asked — my husband is also a Finn fan.

“He’s at home at our new place. But I’ll tell him you said Hi.”

“Tell him I lost a tooth!”

Now THOSE are times worth celebrating. Maybe the tooth will, as I told Finn I hoped, bring big bucks. And how can things be that bad in a world where you can still float on your back and watch?

Of COURSE there's a Santa Claus

We are, it turns out, born to be believers. And that’s a good thing. According to a recent article by Wall Street Journal reporter Shirley S. Wang, imagination is a valuable asset, beginning in childhood:

Imagination is necessary for learning about people and events we don’t directly experience, such as history or events on the other side of the world. For young kids, it allows them to ponder the future, such as what they want to do when they grow up.

“Whenever you think about the Civil War or the Roman Empire or possibly God, you’re using your imagination,” says Paul Harris, a development psychologist and professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education who studies imagination. “The imagination is absolutely vital for contemplating reality, not just those things we take to be mere fantasy.”

So we start out with Santa Claus and the tooth fairy, and grow up to comprehend health reform. As my daughter, a nurse, said to me today, “Really, Mom, I just have to take everyone else’s word for it; there’s no way I can read those thousands of pages.” Nor I — but we are people of (varying) faith.

Although we grown-ups may have gotten realistic about Santa, studies say most of us have faith. Faith in God, Allah, the teachings of the Buddha — doesn’t make a lot of difference. But faith — belief in some power that controls human destiny, belief that doesn’t rely on logical proof — is worth having at any age. Mary McLeod Bethune, a great lady who was smarter than most of us, said, “Without faith, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is impossible.”

Many of us celebrating the babe in the manger this week, along with many who celebrate other happenings and symbols, cling to the belief that there will actually, someday, be peace on earth. Even if it seems impossible.

My son (who is now 50, so don’t tell him I’m still repeating this story) was a true believer child. We had, at our house, a little green elf who arrived on December 1 and spent the next 23 days perched on light fixtures, curtain rods and high cabinet tops; Elf moved around a lot. He watched to see if everyone was good or bad, and on Christmas Eve he flew off to cruise with Santa. One December night, when my son was about 8, possibly older, I was turning out the light as he posed one last question. “Mom,” he said, “I know about Santa Claus, and I know Dad is the Easter Bunny, and all that — but… but how does the elf get from one room to another?”

You gotta believe. We have a health bill, not what we wanted, but the biggest reform in generations and something to build on. The jobless recovery means millions of kids belong to jobless parents, but Santa will come to many of them with the help of a host of community groups. All over the country, Muslim and Jewish volunteers are pitching in to relieve their Christian friends at soup kitchens so the latter can go home and read The Night Before Christmas to their kids.

Peace on earth, goodwill to all.