When you are faced with the daily stress of life’s responsibilities, it can be difficult to maintain a positive attitude.
All too often, we get lost in the noise of modern life and forget about what’s most important. But many are not lucky enough to be able to forget what is important. Instead, they face the true reality of life every day. Those who have not been in a similar situation might have a hard time understanding what that feeling is like, but the rest of us can learn from those in these tough situations.
What kind of situations, you might ask? Well, Dr. Alastair McAlpine spends his time caring for terminally ill children in a palliative care clinic in Cape Town, South Africa. His job is to help take care of children who are dying. He’s not trying to cure these little ones; they are all too sick to expect a return to health. He simply works to make sure they are as comfortable as possible as they face their last days on earth.
He has seen that some of these children, most between the ages of just 4 and 9, display wisdom beyond their years – wisdom that many adults have yet to discover.
As he’s seen this over the years, he has become more and more curious. What seems important to these children? What do they think they should focus on in their lives? For an assignment, he asked several children about what they thought mattered most in life, and he posted their answers on Twitter. The response he has received to some of these answers is astounding, and it has people all over the world questioning whether they are prioritizing things in life that are truly important.
Dr. McAlpine starts with listing the answers that none of the children responded with.
None of them say that they wished they had spent more time watching TV or spending time on Facebook or fighting with people in their lives or being in the hospital. But when we think about our lives, how many of us spend too much time on the internet or mindlessly surfing through Netflix, trying to find another show to watch? It certainly does give you some perspective.
Many of them expressed love and worry for their parents.
They wondered if their parents would be OK when they were gone, and they were concerned that their parents were sad or that they would be heartbroken when they passed.
A lot of them talked about their pets and how happy these animals had made them.
One of them said, “I love when Ginny snuggles up to me at night and purrs.” Another told the doctor, “I love Rufus. His funny bark makes me laugh.” Maybe we should spend more time appreciating the animals in our lives, as well.
This may come as a surprise to many people, but several of the kids mentioned that they loved reading, whether they were reading themselves or they just listened to stories that their parents told them.
In fact, one child even mentioned their love for Harry Potter specifically.
Of course, many of them talked about how important kindness is to them.
They valued kindness above almost any other trait, and they took notice when people were kind to them. It can be easy to forget to prioritize kindness when we are leading such busy lives, but with the perspective that these little ones have, they don’t forget it for a second.
Finally, Dr. McAlpine finished off his tweet thread with the important lessons he had learned from these kids.
He said that it’s important to value kindness, that we should read more, spend time with our families, tell jokes, and tell the people around them that we love them. Oh, and eat more ice cream – that’s an important one. If we are smart, we will take these kids’ insights to heart and learn to be a bit more present and grateful in every single moment we have before it’s too late.
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For an assignment, I asked some of my terminal paediatric palliative care patients what they had enjoyed in life, and what gave it meaning. Kids can be so wise, y’know. Here are some of the responses (Thread).
— Alastair McAlpine (@AlastairMcA30) February 1, 2018