“Cappuccino Service!!”

Posted: May 26, 2010 in Notes from the Daddy Front
Tags: , ,

Hyla calls it “Cappuccino Service”.

Kids notice everything. Just when we think that we’ve slipped one by them or did something that went over their heads, they’ll stun us with some prescient observation that lets us know that they’ve missed nothing.

So, I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me when she noticed that at the end of every afternoon, just before dinner, I would trot off to the bar down the way to have my daily cappuccino. And how did I know that she noticed? Well, the other day, around 5 pm, I heard a knock at my door and when I went to open it, there was Hyla with a cappuccino in her hand.

“Cappucino Service!”

She even had my usual two sugars and a stir stick in the other hand just to make the gesture complete. She had pre-empted my own actions by about 15 minutes and the beatific grin on her face told me that she was thrilled to have conceived of this incredibly thoughtful gesture and that she somehow knew that it would make me very happy.

“Look Daddy, I got you a cappuccino!”

It was all I could do not to cry.

There have been a number of times on this trip where I’ve asked Hyla to do something for me. To get me something from the room, to help me find something I’ve misplaced or to go to the lobby for something from the front desk. And every time I do I always feel a twinge if guilt as if I’m exploiting her kindness or her servitude. But every time I ask her to do something for me she leaps to the occasion and not only doesn’t complain, she’s always eager to please.

I remember as a child that I used to have chores around the house. It was always my duty to take out the garbage cans every week, to shovel when it snowed and to clear the table after meals. I used to do these things just because my parents asked me to. It was never any more complicated than that. And pretty much every time I would always go to my parents seeking the approval that would come with a job well done.

And that’s the nature of a child – to seek their parent’s approval and to know that they’re living up to their responsibilities. That they’re growing up. So why was I so surprised when Hyla showed up with a cappuccino, replete with two sugars and a stir stick?

As adults we tend to do things for some reward. If we take an action it’s usually because we either expect something back or want the outcome to somehow how meet our needs. There some adults who do things selflessly but that tends to be the exception and not the rule. We are self-motivated, self-reliant and often selfish. But kids are not built that way. They just want to please, to make us happy, to show us that they’re growing up and they’re able to fulfill some notion of adult responsibility.

In the spirit of the season I am reminded of a very wise man who lived about 2,010 years ago named Jesus. In his Sermon from the Mount (which is recommended reading for anyone who wishes for or needs a guide for living, regardless of your religious beliefs) he says that the only true charity is that which we give anonymously. The act is the giving and that is the reward, not the accolades that often follow. I always admire it when I see on donation lists the usual three or four “Anonymous’” that always head the top. Those are the people who get what it means to be selfless. Who understand why and how we give.

Hyla didn’t get me that cappuccino because she wanted praise. She got it because she knew it would make me happy and that was the reward within itself.

There are some people who practice the act of “paying it forward” or who commit “random acts of kindness” and who do so cloaked in anonymity and I admire that greatly. I was raised with the notion that if we are blessed life then we have an obligation to give something back and in that spirit I have always been a relentless volunteer and I have always found tremendous reward in that. But I also notice that I like the admiration that comes when I tell people about my volunteer activities and I must remember that’s not the point. When I do so I’m diluting the notion of anonymous giving and I must strive to put my ego aside and to let good works speak for themselves.

After watching for my for several days Hyla figured out that my daily cappuccino made me happy and that if she did that for me it would make me even happier. When I was profuse in my thanks she looked puzzled as if it was odd that I would be so overcome. I love her selfless-ness and the purity of her desire to make me happy as if that is both the object and the reward. And as an adult I am now going to try to find these random acts of kindness that I can perform in my life. Selflessly. Because that’s both the purpose and the point.

And the next day when she asked me if I wanted “Cappuccino Service” I didn’t feel that I was exploiting her kindness by asking her to trot way down to the end of the property to get me a cappuccino because I finally understood the true motivation behind her actions. To give just for the sake of giving. To please for the sake of pleasing. That the object is both the purpose and the reward.

And you know what? It was the best cappuccino I ever had.

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