My five-year-old niece Tori was here today. The last time she was over she claimed to have a bellyache and to take her mind off of it I came up with a game. “We have to get the beans out of your belly,” I declared.
“I don’t have beans in my belly,” she said, while snuggling under a blanket on the recliner.
“Yes, you do,” I argued. “And, if you want to feel better we have to get them out or they’ll grow a beanstalk right up through your mouth.”
I went into the kitchen to get my bean removing supplies. First a measuring tape to determine how many beans were inside her belly, a turquoise funnel to suck the beans out, a tea strainer in which to capture the bean once it was removed and finally and most importantly, a few cashew nuts to surreptitiously serve as the beans.
I returned to Tori and measured her belly, blew on the funnel and then showed her the tea strainer in which I had secretly placed a few of the cashews. “Look, here’s the beans!” I declared. She mustered enough interest to look then just shook her head, “No, that’s pretend,” she said.
“No,” I said and proceeded to remove some more beans. I’m not sure if she thought me crazy or just ridiculous, but my antics seemed to take her mind off her bellyache and she began to play.
Today, when I saw her I asked her how she was and if I needed me to remove some more beans. She looked at me and deadpanned, “Not gonna happen!”
I laughed. “What? What did you say? Not going to happen?”
“Yup, it’s not real,” she said, shaking her head again.
We played some games and later when she was sitting in the recliner I came in with my bean inspecting supplies and said “It’s time.”
I went to work again measuring and announcing that there was one bean in her belly. I then took the funnel, this time slipping a cashew into it. I blew on her belly and said, “Look, I got one!” I handed her the funnel for inspection. This time it appeared as if the cashew really had been sucked up from her belly into the funnel. I took the funnel back to her and began to place the bean in the strainer, so it wouldn’t get away. As I did so, I heard her mutter under her breath, “Huh, maybe it can happen.”
I had to laugh inside because she was so accepting, so matter of fact. She wasn’t in awe, but she had opened her mind to possibility and it was this matter-of-fact acceptance that warmed my heart and made me want to embrace her and follow her example. I loved how easy it was for her to adapt to a new point of view, to accept a new reality. Deep down I’m pretty sure she knew we were playing a game, but part of her thought maybe not, maybe it could happen. Maybe a bean could be blown out of her tummy and if so maybe it’s best to keep an open mind. Maybe it’s not that far a stretch from here to there. Maybe, we all can learn something.