Let them eat chips! (Or at least pretend to)

My 7-year-old niece is a beautiful, precocious, and brilliant little child. Watching her learn and grow is like having a direct window into the human condition, like watching the evolution of all humanity.

Several years ago, when she was 3 or 4 years old, there was an incident when my mom was babysitting her. My niece was eating a bag of chips when somehow the bag of chips fell, scattering the chips all over the floor. She bent down to eat them but my mom brushed her away, telling her not to eat the dirty chips. My mom then got her broom and swept the chips into the dust pan. Momentarily crushed, my niece then regained her spirits and plopped down on the floor, happily picking up imaginary chips from the floor and popping them into her mouth.

My mom and I had a huge laugh as she recounted the story to me later that day. Aside from the utter cuteness of it, I was also struck by the powerful resilience and spunky spirit shown by my niece that day. She didn’t cry, throw a tantrum, or otherwise let the discarded chips bring her down. Instead, she processed her disappointment and then gathered her wits to go on and do what she had intended to do, eat yummy crunchy chips even if they were no longer there.

I think about all the times when I let my own disappointments derail me, and I’m inspired to rediscover that unbeatable spirit within me that I know every child has (or had). Sure, life’s challenges become bigger as we grow older, but that simply calls for more resilience, not less.

This world can be a tough place to live in, and there are many times when good, hard-working people will be cheated or deprived of the various wants and needs of life. What to do then? It seems like a hollow answer, an insult really, to say that someone should just pretend to have what they want or need when they don’t in fact have it. Let them eat cake! So said the ignorant and indulgent Queen Marie Antoinette of France, as the people of her country starved. (Whether she actually said that is up for debate, but moving on.)

Such a quip may not solve the more serious needs of our lives, but I think that attitude of ‘I’m going to have it, whether I actually have it or not’ is a source of potentially unlimited strength and power. Such a bold, hearty spirit may not literally fill an empty tummy or put a roof over one’s head, but it may just be enough to get someone through that one dark moment, until the next reprieve will come. And in the unrelenting ups and downs of life, those momentary flashes of spunk and grit may make all the difference over the course of a lifetime.

So let us all have our chips, and eat them, too.