This past week I found myself cornered in a lengthy discussion. It was with a 10-year-old I had just met. And it was about superheroes. I made a point to introduce myself to him mainly because I felt sorry for him. He was the only child in a room full of adults having adult conversation.
I told him I liked the Captain America shirt he was wearing. His eyes lit up and then the floodgates opened. He talked with me about every relevant superhero and superhero movie over the last decade. Now I enjoy superheroes and superhero movies. I’ve written about this before here and here. But, honestly, I don’t care that much. There was an adult conversation that I was wanted to be (and was supposed to be) a part of, but I couldn’t. I was stuck talking about the merits of capes and utility belts. I don’t know how it began, but I do know how it ended. The boy pulled a superhero book out of his backpack and went through each character profile with me…all 200 of them.
At the end of the evening, it was time to leave. I had missed much of the adult conversation in the room. The boy’s father pulled me aside and said sarcastically, “Thanks for talking with my son about superheroes for 12 hours!” Recognizing the sarcasm, I just smiled and nodded. Then he said, “No, seriously, thank you.”
While driving away, I began reflecting on my evening. I am a big believer in meaningful conversations. I’ve created a company and a game for kids that seeks to encourage such conversations. And I can honestly say that this was not one of them. At no point did we talk about anything resembling the pursuit of truth, goodness, or purpose.
However, I was reminded of something I heard many years ago. During my college years, I worked at a faith-based sports camp each summer. I remember one of the camp directors saying “Kids spell love T-I-M-E.” Simply put, he encouraged us counselors to spend time with the kids. To get to know them. To ask questions. To listen to their stories. To be patient. To encourage. To be sincerely interested. Love is demonstrated through time and focused attention.
If that boy experienced even a small measure of love talking about superheroes, then I guess it was a meaningful conversation after all.