We asked our friends to tell us about a time when a child inspired them in a surprising or profound way.
"Last month, as I was helping my kids board the school bus, I heard a loud knocking sound coming from the second-to-last window. A cute little girl with a big grin waved at me emphatically with both hands, so I waved back.
"And then she did it the next day. And the next. And again...EVERY day for over a month now. I wonder if she rides the whole bus route pretending every parent is her long-lost best friend, or if I'm her chosen one. ☺️"
"When my daughter was 5, she put her arm around her little brother one time and gave him a pep talk. 'Cheer up, buddy,' she said. 'Don't think about sad things like Mom saying, "Stop fighting! Stop fighting!" Think about happy things, like electronics.'
"I've often tried to live by that advice myself."
"I was on a flight and not happy about sitting next to two little boys — let's say four and eight — because sleeping is a priority for me on planes. I'm next to the 8-year-old.
"The flight attendant started handing out drinks and snacks to the boys first, and CRAZY TURBULENCE STARTED right before she got to me, the kind of turbulence where a flight attendant even looks panicked and straps everything down as quickly as possible while your stomach feels as if it's in your head.
"We went through 5 to 10 minutes of this, and as soon as things calmed down, the 8-year-old helped his little brother open his snack first, then opened his and before eating any held out the bag to me and asked if I wanted any.
"I felt so guilty for internally complaining about being next to a child, when he ended up being the most polite and thoughtful plane seat-mate ever."
"I used to volunteer at a New York hospital in the pediatric unit. We had a 3-year-old boy with cancer, and the prognosis wasn't positive. He had spent most of his life in the hospital battling cancer. His parents didn't visit often, but when they did, they smelled of booze and cigarettes.
"He usually wasn't able to come out of his crib for play hours, but one day he did. He was in an unusually good mood and found a big-wheel bike in the corner of the playroom. I took my eye off of him for one second, and he escaped, racing the bike through the halls.
"I finally chased him down and said 'STOP.' He looked me square in the eyes and said, 'NO, I CAN'T STOP.' I admired his rebellious spirit and his ability to take advantage of the small moments when he felt alive and well. He got back on the bike, and since I knew these moments were few and far between, I just let him go."
"I was offered my dream job before I graduated college. I loved everything about it. I got to do things I couldn't even dream of doing, but after six years, I was kind of miserable.
"One day, my 4-year-old niece was over at my parents' house, and we started doing yoga. In that moment, I realized that teaching kids would be more fulfilling than flying on a private jet or going to glitzy awards shows.
"So a few months later, I quit, got certified to teach yoga, and spent a year helping tiny, little humans figure out how to be more relaxed, confident, and happier. It was the best."
"For years, my son Melvin would wipe off my kisses and say 'Don't touch me' whenever I gave him hugs — to which I'd tell him, 'I'm your mom, and I give you hugs and kisses whether you want them or not.'
"It took almost four years before he turned a corner. Between those times of wiping off my kisses and craning away from my hugs — and amid the loud noises of the business around us — Mel started saying to me, 'Mom, I want to give you a kiss because you are the goodest, nicest, prettiest girl.'
"I eat up those long-awaited moments, and find myself saying, 'Quiet, everyone, Mel has an announcement. Say it again, Mel!'"
"I was waiting for the subway one afternoon, and it was disgustingly muggy and moist in the station. The train was delayed, and I was in such a mood. I thought everything was going wrong that day.
"While I was tapping my foot being generally impatient and moody, someone's cell phone went off, and the tone played very realistic sounds of horses. This little girl sitting a few seats away from me, in her little pink parka, suddenly jumped out of her seat with wide eyes and gasped, 'Mommy! Is that a unicorn?!'
"And I just remembered how nice it is to be optimistic, fantastical, and excited at whatever the hell gets you. I smiled to myself, and it really turned my entire day around. I try to think of the subway unicorn whenever I'm pissed about the subway."
"One time, I was riding the train back home to Brooklyn. These two adorable little girls get on the train with their dad. Their father was very well put together: crisp slacks, a button-up and vest, a skinny tie, and shiny, tobacco-colored Oxfords. He began doodling on his tablet, and being the curious human being I am, I took a look.
"There on his tablet was this gorgeous digital illustration of a superhero character he was contouring and shading. Impressed, my focus shifted toward the girls who began striking up a conversation with the woman next to them, who looked to be in the fashion industry and in her mid- to late 20s.
"One of the younger girls had her own version of a tablet for kids and was coloring and designing different dresses. Her sister next to her was creating bracelets out of rubber bands and beads. They were talking to this woman who, as I suspected, was a clothing designer for an upscale brand.
"The girls began gabbing about how their father is a graphic designer and writes comic books. Each one beamed with pride as they discussed their aspirations and accomplishments. The girl making the bracelets wanted to make jewelry one day, and already started designing and selling the bracelets to girls at her school. The one doodling on dresses wanted to be a fashion designer and loved giving her dad styling tips.
"As they were getting off the train, one of the girls took the bracelet she was making and gave it to the woman they were talking to. It was such a sweet gesture, and you could tell it had on an impact on her.
"Seeing their unwavering joy and enthusiasm about their passions — it made me grateful to be in that time, that place, this city, and the current state I am in in my life."
"Once I was playing mini golf with an 8-year-old friend of mine who is a competitive golfer. She was totally beating me. And at one particular hole that I found difficult, she turned to me and said, 'You need to believe that you can do it. Only then will you hit the ball.'
"Her mom was there, and we both smiled at each other, and I told this little girl, 'I believe! I believe!' Then she became very serious and turned to me and said without smiling, 'Don't just say you believe. You have to actually believe.'
"After that, I shut up and tried again. It took me over 10 shots to finish this particular hole. But her saying that to me plays like an animated GIF in my head if I ever need a pep talk. The next time I played mini golf, I scored three hole-in-one shots."
"About five years ago, I was going through the final breakup of a long, drawn-out relationship. I'd retreated to my brother's house in Maine for a long weekend, and, in a moment of weakness, called my ex. Of course, that led to me feeling even worse than before. I'd had plans to take my 6-year-old nephew on an errand, but was a mess and found an empty room to cry in instead. Then, my nephew walked in on me, and this exchange happened:
Nephew: 'Aunt Casey, why are you crying? Is it happy or sad crying? Is it because of [ex's name]?'
Me: 'Sad, and yes. How did you know?'
Nephew: 'Because [family friend] cried like that once when she ran into her boyfriend, and that's the only other time I've heard someone cry like that.'
"I was so shocked and impressed by his insight that I immediately pulled it together. We left to go on our errands together and ended up having a really great afternoon. It was such a meaningful moment for me because it helped me move on and also confirmed that my nephew is smart, empathetic, sweet, and going to grow up to be an awesome dude."