–To change the world, we must first change ourselves.–
Harvey had to leave. He lost everything he owned. He moved out to the West Desert to live with a mountain man friend who lives in a teepee. He said he would do fine, but worried about staying warm enough and getting enough to eat in the freezing winters. I worried for him, too. I did what I could to help Harvey, examining legal documents, but it was too late.
The children were so sad to have to say good-bye to Harvey and his animals, especially Lucy and Charlie. All his animals are gone except for a couple of Peacocks. They call out at night with a lonely, despairing cry which fills me with sadness. Harvie gave me two Jungle Fowl, a rooster and a hen. They look like small chickens, but Harvey says they are very smart birds from the jungles of Mexico. The rooster is beautiful, with florescent blue, red, and brown feathers. The hen is very pretty. The two of them stay close to each other, and the rooster protects the little hen from the other chickens, never leaving her side. We hoped they wouldn’t die or fly away.
The petite jungle fowl turned out to be the mildest of hens. But the hatching of her chicks turned her into the fiercest of protecting mothers. As I approached to apprehend a stray chick, she attacked me through the wire wall, throwing herself at me claws first, like a hawk about to clasp its helpless prey with black talons. Frustrated by the wire, she strutted like an angry rooster, her wings lowered to the ground in an indignant expression and signaling her readiness to fight. I eased the chick through a crack in the door, then backed away to spare the hen needless stress while she ran to shoo her chick to safety.
When Harvey moved, part of the magic of the country left with him, and part of me felt dark and sad. Erin (8) was particularly disappointed. She adored Harvey, and thought of him as a beautiful man, despite his rough appearance.
“This isn’t right,” she declared. “I am going to change the world so that bad things like this don’t happen to good people.”
She moved quickly, braiding for Harvey a bouquet of dandelion flowers. He knelt down and smiled with his small blue eyes into hers, tears forming in the corners.
“Thank you,” he whispered, and then walked out the door.
I started showing Erin magazines about people who worked hard to make the world a better place. I read to her about one woman who lived for two years in the top of an ancient, 300-foot tall Redwood tree to save it from being cut down by loggers.
“Two years!” she exclaimed. “I wonder how she went to the bathroom?”
The logging company announced that it would save that tree and lots of others.
“She did it!” Erin exclaimed again.
I told her about other people who worked to save coral reefs, silver back gorillas, fresh water fish, the ozone layer, and endangered species. I read to her about scientists who marched through tropical forests collecting seeds from trees so that if the trees become extinct the seeds could be planted and bring the species back into existence. I told her about Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, chronicling the excesses of the 1950 chemical industry, about DDT and soft bird egg shells and defoliating entire fields and poisoning lakes and fish to kill mosquitoes.
Angie told Erin one night, “The best way to save the world is to be kind. If you’re kind to one person, you will brighten their day, and then that person will want to be kind to someone else, and it goes on like that. You can’t change the world all at once, but you can change it one small step at a time.”
She encouraged Erin that if she sees someone that needs help, and she helps, she will have changed the world a little bit. If she resisted the temptation to scream at Laura, and show love instead, she will have made the world a better place.
“As you get older,” Angie went on, “you will learn how to make bigger differences for more people. Try not to worry about where to go or what to do to change the world. The opportunities will come to you. The world will come to you. And you will be there, ready. Just keep your heart in the right place.”
The next morning, while her mother applied her makeup in the master bathroom, Erin stole into our room and made our bed. She pulled the covers up and tugged the corners tight. She fluffed the pillows and arranged the stuffed panda I had bought for Angie on a business trip.
“Who made my bed so nice?” Angie called out a few minutes later.
Erin smiled and knew that she had made a difference.
Erin and Laura decided they wanted to help the poor. They set up a street-corner stand to earn money for that purpose. Their wares included lemonade from real lemons, summer squash from the garden, homemade butter, and fresh eggs of several colors and varieties: white (Leghorn), tan (Orpington), brown (Rhode Island Red), and olive-green (Araucana). They sat for hours trying to sell their goods. Mostly they watched cowboys in pick-up trucks speed by, and mostly I watched to see if any of the trucks slowed down or stopped. A few kindly neighbors stopped and purchased produce with coins and smiles. The day ended with disappointing sales and disappointing proceeds for the poor. But the girls gave everything they earned to charity. And they learned a few good lessons, like how to keep a tidy shop, how to display merchandise so prospective customers will want to stop and buy, how to be patient with the ignorance of others about the value of your products and the worth of your cause, and how hard it can be to make a dollar.
* * *
I believe that beautiful music changes people and changes the world. When John was nearly two years old, he awoke several times a night, crying for his mommy. I tried to help him go back to sleep, but he became infuriated and screamed louder because he wanted his mommy to nurse him back to sleep, and he knew that I couldn’t do it. One night John finally gave in, laying on my chest while I sang little songs to him.
“Do you like my songs?” I asked him. “I’ll make one up for you if you want.”
John nodded sleepily. “About bee-bee zee-ba,” he surprised me with his particularity.
“OK,” I said. “Baby zebra. Hmm.”
Within a few minutes I had composed a little song about a baby zebra, and John was sound asleep. John still wanted his mamma when he woke up in the night, but he quickly succumbed to my question, “Do you want me to sing Baby Zebra?” to which he sighed a long “Yeahh.”
“Okay,” I said.
Baby zebra: running on the plain.
Baby zebra: dancing in the rain.
Baby zebra: happy all the day.
Baby zebra, come and play.
I was amused one night to hear John demand, “Uh-uh bee-bee zee-ba; bee-bee hor-hie.”
“Baby horsey?” I asked.
“Yeah,” confirmed John.
So I substituted horsey for zebra. John quickly found that most any animal could be substituted for his zebra. For example:
Baby birdie, flying in the sky.
Baby birdie, flying way up high.
John, grown to four years old, often broke out in spontaneous song. He loved to sing about Jesus, with lyrics like, Oh I love Jesus. Oh I love God. Oh I love you, Jesus and God. His songs about Jesus made baby Caleb happy, and he in turn would sing, Song, Jesus God. In John’s prayers, he would say, “Please bless Jesus and God.”
A year later, I lied down by Caleb (2) to help him fall asleep. He looked out the window at the moon and asked me if I would “make” a song just for him, about the moon. Now, I am not a trained composer, but I do love music. These moments with my young children, however, are so magical that simple tunes and lyrics seem to come easily. Within minutes of vocal tinkering, I was singing to him this song, which became his song, and which he still loves to hear even as a 6-foot 4-inch tall teenager:
Moonlight shines bright.
Stars add their light.
The heavens, they watch
Moonlight shining bright.
Now sleep, my child,
In moonlight mild.
May God delight
In thy pure light.
Moonlight, shine bright.
Stars, add your light.
The gods, they watch.
Moonlight, shine bright.