“We all got together and picked a new name for you,” my boss — many years ago — popped her head in my door to tell me. “It’s Virginia.”
“You are aware,” I replied patiently, “that I am a married woman?”
“Oh yes,” she said. “But you just seem so innocent.” It wasn’t a compliment.
Years later, a woman at the hair salon spontaneously burst out with the following: “Your eyes are so innocent looking!” I thanked her, but pondered whether or not I ought to have.
Nowadays, I view things differently. See, I always thought that the goal of any life was to do something — to add something to one’s repertoire that caused sensational good in the world. If I did this thing I was meant to do, I reasoned, I could die in a state of grace.
But maybe it isn’t about adding so much as it is about refusing to subtract. Let me explain. When I was born, my mother wrote me a letter. In it, she noted how much I looked like her — except for my eyes, which held such innocence. She prayed that I would always be this way, untouched by the evils of the world.
Though I like to think of myself as a woman of the world — and certainly I have endured and/or witnessed things that are not easy — I do retain a streak of naiveté. I expect that others will be honest with me because I will be honest with them. I believe that people will not want to do hurtful things, that only hurt people do hurtful things. It always shocks me when I witness someone doing harm purely for the fun of it, or without seeming to care. How can such a person be that way?
I once complained to a superior that I had been promised something by a colleague and was disappointed that he didn’t mean it. Why would he say something he didn’t mean? “Are you stupid?” she asked pointedly. Well, maybe I am. Or maybe I have retained a quality that God (and my dear mother) wanted me to retain: A certain purity. A certain innocence.
Maybe the goal of my life isn’t so much to add but to fail to subtract — to fail to give in to the forces of the world that would turn me jaded and apathetic. Maybe by remaining surprised and hurt by the evil in the world, I am further spurred to reject it for something better. Maybe my eyes aren’t so much innocent, but ever-hopeful.
What quality do you exhibit that should never be quashed? A sense of adventure? The ability to make others laugh? Resilience? Whatever that quality is, don’t lose it. After all, it may be the very thing you were put on this earth to keep.