Living the Raffi life

main.jpgIt’s mine, but you can have some/ With you, I’d like to share it,” Raffi sang on stage at the Pantages Theater, and then stopped, with a twinkle in his eye. “You know, in Canada, we have universal health insurance,” he mused to the parents, before snapping back to the kids with a playful “I don’t know what I’m thinking about.”

I went to see Raffi in concert because I have a three-year-old who knows all the words to “Baby Beluga” and “Wheels On The Bus,” and because my wife is more organized than I am and got tickets. So why am I writing about Raffi for a YNPN-TC post? They say go with what you know, and right now, I know Raffi.

But I do feel a theme in our current conversations on this blog. The last two entries – Commarah Bashar’s “You Mad? Dealing with Anger Like a Pro” and Diane Tran’s “Noticing Now: Musings on Mindfulness” – both center on staying productive, focused, active, and emotionally intelligent in a field that can seem thankless and in a political environment that is an existential threat to many of us and to many of the communities we serve. So consider this the third blog in that series.

Since I’ve become a parent, it’s been an odd and profound thing to have the voices of my own childhood come back around to me, often in ways that are surprising and have an added personal and political resonance these days. There’s a continual humbling of the constructs that get built up around being an adult, those things that go with being “serious.” It’s not necessarily the stuff of Hollywood heart-melters or Dr. Seuss tales, but every day, I have to answer a constant stream of “Why?” questions from a toddler. I have to make silly faces, dance like a monkey, and be ready for waves of emotions. Children have an amazing capacity for their own happiness, with imaginations and a belief that anything is possible – how else would a banana become a phone?

In the face of that imagination (and still doing my job), I want to say “Why?” to everything I see, and the traditional qualifications that we put on being “professional” seem pretty suspect. Too often we think of “professionalism” as an education, or a wardrobe, or an expectation of emotional neutrality, but really, we should define it as a human ability to relate, to get things done, and to make other people happy.

I often do informational interviews, and was sitting down not too long ago with someone who asked about abundance – something my organization is pretty well known for and my boss has written about. “How,” he asked, “can you talk about abundance when you have financial constraints?” That question misses the point. Abundance isn’t about unlimited money or acting irresponsibly – we are diligent stewards of our resources and work to fundraise and show value. Abundance is about having the imagination and capacity to say yes, to play with others, and to share (you know, those things children do). We need all of that we can get these days.

Raffi has a whole philosophy and movement around the importance of valuing children called Child Honouring – “Spelled the Canadian way,” he pointed out at his show. His “Covenant for Honouring Children” is deserves reading and some meditation. It begins with the statement, “We find these joys to be self evident: That all children are created whole, endowed with innate intelligence, with dignity and wonder, worthy of respect.” It’s worth reading those words and remembering that those words also apply to you, too.

There’s a famous Pablo Picasso quote, “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” I’d posit that it goes further than that. Really it’s, “All children are human. The problem is how to remember that once we grow up.”

So let’s stop using “childish” as a word to describe behaviors that are petulant, reckless, dangerous, and most of all, driven by adults. Let’s name those things as part of the grown-up constructs they are, and let’s then use our innate and abundant creativity to get around them, take them down, and make something new.

So, do something today that reminds you what it was like to be a kid and to live the “Raffi” life. Share. Be kind to yourself and to someone else. Take a break from your stressful job and go for a walk. Color. Dance at your desk. Sing with people – I recommend “The More We Get Together.”

Please Note: The YNPN Twin Cities blog is an opportunity for YNPN-TC members (and others) to share their opinions about issues of importance to young nonprofit professionals. Each blog is written by the individual author, and the views expressed may not be shared by all YNPN members.

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