Last week, I went to a wake for a friend of mine from high school. I cannot fully explain what happens to the psyche when you see your 23-year-old friend in a casket. It is horrible, sad, disheartening, devastating, and yet humbling. You feel your feet on the ground a bit firmer; you see the people around you a bit clearer, and you feel your heart beating in your chest a bit stronger. There are, of course, the reminders of what once was: the friendship, the laughter, the memories. All accompanied by the equally glaring thoughts of what will be, what's to come. Clutching your friends and single-ply tissues, you weep. Afterwards, you reflect. You remember how he made you feel, how he lit up a room, how he was one of the nicest people you've ever had the pleasure of calling "friend."
Then you wonder how you can emulate his personhood, how you can make more people like him.
A few days later, I picked up the little girl that I nanny from pre-school. She is smart, talkative, inquisitive, adorable, and I am sure that her giggle could refuse the atmosphere, or at the least, my heart. I looked at her little two-and-a-half-year-old self and thought, here's our chance: the children. This is how we recreate excellence in the form of people. This is how we honor someone who made people, the world around him, feel good. We start with the children. They hold the future in their, albeit small, hands, and we owe it to them, and each other, to bring up kind, polite, strong, driven, passionate, empathetic beings.
But how? How do you teach politeness to a two-and-a-half-year-old who believes that their time on the trampoline should be twenty minutes, while another child gets five? (Time is made of different things at that age). How do you teach kindness to a two-and-a-half-year-old who doesn't watch where she's going when she's walking because she's too busy staring at someone who looks differently than her? How do you teach strength to a two-and-a-half-year-old that is still dependent on you to open up her container filled with perfectly-sliced apples (thank you very much)? How do you teach drive and passion to a two-and-a-half-year-old who's main concern is not taking a bath? How do you teach empathy to a two-and-a-half-year-old who, quite frankly, is having a hard enough time figuring out her own emotions? (Who can blame her?)
I brought this topic up with the kiddo's father, who told me that the five ways to be a good member of society, or how to change the world, were: be a good parent, be a good partner, be a good friend, be a good neighbor, and be a good teacher. Yes, we can change the world by picketing, marching in the street, or volunteering, and we shouldn't stop doing those things, but how do we change the world on a microlevel, and in turn, a macro-level? You stop, you explain, you lead by example, and you follow those five pillars, so that we can raise children that become the same as my friend: kind, polite, strong, driven, passionate, empathetic, and a pleasure to call "friend."
If you're here, and you've read this, thank you. While I have you, I urge you to consider donating to the scholarship created in honor of my friend, so that his legacy may continue: https://www.gofundme.com/nickdelapava
If you can't, that's quite all right. I then ask you to try to live like him, so that we may be blessed with more people like him.