When a new mom in our office brought her tiny baby in to show her coworkers, it caused havoc.
It was a quiet, peaceful, transfixed sort of havoc, but havoc nonetheless. Time stopped. The click-clack sound of fingers on keyboards ceased. As if in obedience to a command from above, doors flew open and a congealed mass of adoring humanity quickly converged around the baby and the mom, blocking the hallway just as thrombocytes might gather to clog a damaged blood vein.
There was ooh-ing and ahh-ing and every species of verbal adoration. These were the magi and the shepherds, and the baby was the halo-encircled Christ-child—at least for a few minutes.
People I thought I knew were transformed before my very eyes. They became other.
But because neither magic nor miracles can be sustained long in this damaged world, the workers soon went back to their keyboards and the object of their veneration moved weightlessly to its next destination.
At one time I disliked babies, and was rather smug about it. Really. I NEVER wanted to hold a baby. Its diaper might leak, or it might puke on me. Yuck. Or I might be blamed for making the little thing cry. Oh, the opprobrium. Or I might break it and merit the censure of at least the female half of humanity.
Since opposites attract, as they say, I married a woman who is crazy about babies. When she put our newborn baby son in my arms 30 years ago, I was humbled—and I abruptly became teachable. My wife was an awesome teacher, and thanks to her tutelage I soon learned (I think) 95 percent of what a guy is supposed to know about babies.
So after the baby crashed our office, rather than dismissing it as dumb female stuff, I granted it a presumption of validity and actually tried to figure it out.
These people were happy. Glowingly, ineffably, beatifically happy. Radiant. How could a baby do that to anyone?
But, Dr. Obvious, the baby didn’t actually DO anything. Ironically, it was the most unmoved and unmoving of all the characters in the living crèche. The baby was little more than a bystander, a witness. It was the statue; the others were flesh and warm blood.
The only possibility remaining was that the change in my coworkers came from within.
What wells up within most well-adjusted folks when they see a baby up close? An urge to protect, care for, nurture, feed, cuddle, defend, love, show kindness to, embrace, sacrifice for—in short: a powerful, profound desire to give. The baby brought out the “giver” in each of those office workers.
But the trail seeking an explanation does not end there.
It ends here: we like ourselves when we are givers. And we love to like ourselves. It makes us happy—very happy.
The baby brought out the most amazing giver in every worker, and because we like ourselves when we are givers, they were all, in that moment, thoroughly, joyfully happy with themselves. Their joy came from within, as the “giver” that was always in them rose to the very front and obliterated everything else. In that moment, neither their eyes nor hearts beheld any of the damaged parts of the world—or of their own souls.
And this, not coincidentally, explains why time seems to stop and all of us—from Santa down to my 5-year-old who knelt to kiss the Jesus statute in a nativity scene last week—turn into crazy, happy gift-givers at Christmas. The arrival of baby Jesus crashes our world and eclipses everything else.
Photo credit: istock. Following image courtesy of author.