This I Believe #3: Infant Power

Installment #3 of my personal This I Believe series.

This I Believe: Infant Power

"He was so little! And fuzzy! I've never held a baby that new. I didn't know they were fuzzy. And he got heavy even though he was so little. And he was kicking his legs all over, so I unwrapped him from the blanket. And he had fingernails! I asked his mom if they scratched her from the inside. And one of them was already broken! It was baby's first hangnail."

I'll give you three guesses about who was gushing to me about that two-day-old child. No, it wasn't an excited sibling or tickled-pink grandparent. It was a 26-year-old man -- my friend -- who was holding an infant for the first time in his life and learning the power those little creatures wield over the bigger folks in their midst.

"I couldn't believe how much of him there was," he kept saying, wonder in his voice. At first, the statement struck me as odd. The baby was only 7 pounds -- not so big in the grand scheme of newborns. And I should know, I thought smugly, because my huge extended family ensures I always have a couple spare babies around to cuddle and squeeze.

But then I thought some more, and realized I was selling my friend short. On a deep, biological, and instinctual level, he grasped the import of holding an entire person in his arms. This wasn't just a blankie-wrapped assembly of skin, bones, and muscles. It was a fully realized human being who was already growing and changing each second my friend held him close.

How much does a soul weigh, anyway? Does character have critical mass? Does potential have heft? All these elements were already present in the child, and evolving with each breath. No wonder he felt heavy. He was shouldering his possibility.

Truly, there is so much of us. So much, in fact, that I wish when I felt angry or prejudiced or bitter toward other people, I could look them in the eye and think about what they were like as babies, and how that possibility is still with them -- and with me.

Maybe I'll get there one day. After all, I've been growing, changing, and evolving since I arrived. Why stop now? In the meantime, I'll ask my friend to pass the baby over. I could always use a little reminder.