If I could go back 20 years in time, I would have told my mother, “I want to be a silly man”. Let me rephrase that. I would have said, “Mamá, quiero ser un hombre silly”. It is one of those rare occasions when I find that the English language actually has a word that encompasses what I am trying to say but I can’t find one word for it in Spanish. Quisiera ser menso, juguetón, bromista, qué se yo. I just can’t translate silly man into my native tongue.
I find it strange that as an adult, I wish to be silly. Back when I was 6-years-old, as I sat in the back seat of my mother’s car in a hot Monterrey summer day, driving away from my grandmother’s house, I said I wanted to be a lawyer. I always called my grandmother “Abuelita”. She was petite, so the name actually fit her just right. It went better than Alicia. Even though she passed away four years ago, she will always be Abuelita and I will always think of her when people say that word.
But today I wish I could go back and change my answer. Before being a lawyer, I wish to be silly. Perhaps a silly lawyer; I do not think these are two opposing or mutually exclusive terms. Why not a silly poet? A silly acrobat? A silly doctor? A silly musician? It does not matter what you do, but never stop being silly. Silliness is our friend, friends. We cannot expect to understand this world seriously without being even a little bit silly.
So what do I mean by being silly? One of the great lessons I have learned by working with children is that life can be light-hearted in the hardest of situations. The kids have taught me that you cannot transform your community without smiling in the face of large-scale hunger. I cannot expect to change this social problem if I do not laugh heartily as I work as hard as I can and to the best to my ability to make it a distant memory.
We have to sing during office hours. We must dance as we carry the juice boxes from pallet to table. We have to laugh when the snow freezes our eyelashes when we load the meals onto the cars. We have to be silly every day. How else are we going to change our community?
That is what being a silly man means to me. We must understand and recognize the magnitude of the social issues that affect our community. We have to learn the best practices and develop our own to be strong and smart in the face of overwhelming odds. But we have to tread lightly or else our feet will sink on the earth beneath us.
We have to be strong and laugh at the same time. We have to embody the child and the adult; it is not a question of choosing one or the other. Some people think childhood is left behind after a certain age. I do not; we must never abandon who we were.
Let us embrace our very own childhood. We may have tried to leave it in the past, but truth is our inner child never left. Take a chance to be silly, friend.
I, myself, can never go back to not being silly.