Dear Beautiful Girl - Girl of Cardigan

Dear Beautiful Girl –

You find him on the train.

He’s wearing aggressively voluminous jeans, a face-shielding hoodie, pounding earbuds, a scowl, and brand new sneakers that mark him, instantly in my quick sideways glance, as someone who does not want to hear from me, someone with whom I will not connect, should not engage.  He and his backpack fall heavily into a corner of seats, sprawling in a wide and inconsiderate way that ignites someone condescending and irritable underneath my sunny day mood.  He looks out the window, scowl backlit now and glowing like a No Vacancy sign, the antithesis of hospitality, all barbed wire and junkyard pitbulls.

You yell.  You echo your tiny, persistent “Uh-Huh!” greeting across the otherwise empty MAX car, you wave your chubby baby arms, you squirm and shine and insist until he sees you.  At which point, naturally, you beam.

I don’t know how to explain your smile to you, except to say that whatever remains of heaven in the very young is in that smile.

It is a holy thing, your smile – a moment of grace.

You win him.  You win them all, but this one you keep for the remainder of the train ride.  He makes goofy, heart-melting faces, you coo and flirt, and I watch the two of you, opposites attracting, Kingdom coming, friendship lived.

He isn’t the first or the last.  The tired, angry gray woman at the grocery store, stooped and shuffling and forgotten, who flinches when you reach for her twisted fingers and grins when you grab them with your perfect new ones.  The dark-eyed girl on the other side of the food cart window who looks at you in wonder as she whispers to her friend “No baby has ever smiled at me before.”  The obviously drunk and pungently disheveled man half asleep on the sidewalk who somehow earns your giggle and smiles back at you with the most perfectly beautiful white teeth.  You find them, the others – the unlike you, the separate, the unnoticed, the avoided – you find them, and you greet them with all of the heart you can muster.  And that heart of yours – oh, my love – the wonder of that heart.

No one has taught you the rules.

No one has told you the shoulds and the shouldn’ts, no one has outlined for you the difference between the haves and the have nots, the friend and the stranger, the us and the them.  You barely have words – you haven’t had time to learn the language of wardrobe and age and race and size and beauty and alliance and all of the other excuses we use to divide ourselves.  You count faces in eyes and noses and potential for grinning, and each is equal to the last, and each is worthy of your time and your magic and your smile that leaks heaven.  No one has taught you the rules, so you do not see them – you just see them – the loved, the longing, the dear, the needed, the created, the precious, the His.

Somehow, somehow, God in heaven – help me not be the one to teach you.

Lend me the courage to unlearn what years of decorum and propriety and society and sin have placed in my bones.  Grant me the innocence to follow your sweet and life-opening lead, to smile when it isn’t safe, to cross any and all imaginary boundaries in search of giggles and healing and common ground.  Teach me to see through our ridiculous categories, our absurd little boxes – show me eyes and noses and souls and hearts.  Because a thousand rejected smiles, a thousand awkward moments in which I’m the weirdo grinning lady on the train, a thousand pits of embarrassment sinking into my gut are a thousand times better than the moment I see you turn and look the other way and know that you’ve become like us, like me – governed by fear and nonsense, indentured to invented madness, a follower of the rules.

We will find him on the train, he of the hoodie and the earbuds and the aggressive denim, and we will grin at him like Cheshire cats, like mad men, like fools, and we will let a little heaven leak out.

And when they ask me how I learned all the secrets, the answer will always be you.

Girl of Cardigan


  • Gisele chastain January 6, 2014 at 9:19 am

    Beautiful. Thank you.

    • karyn January 7, 2014 at 10:51 am

      Thank you, Gisele!

  • Kelley Friend January 6, 2014 at 9:24 am

    Seriously beautiful! I honestly starter tearing up ag just the thought of gorgeous little Fable’s neverending smile and then the picture of my oun son’s grin. Babies have so much to teach us! Thsnk you for this.

    • karyn January 6, 2014 at 10:16 am

      I am knitting and whispering hopes into a jacket for your sweet boy nearly as I type! Humbling, isn’t it,the way they know all the things?

  • Jen January 6, 2014 at 9:44 am

    Yes, yes…a thousand times yes! This is why I am a kid lover and didn’t flinch at having 29 kids in our wedding! 🙂

    • karyn January 6, 2014 at 10:14 am

      Ha! I flinched. I flinched many times. 😉 But I adore this about you, so very much.

  • Jeannie January 6, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    So beautiful! I love the way our little ones connect us to the world in a way we cannot on our own. Just such pure love and connection; it’s so neat to see how that touches people, especially strangers.

    • karyn January 7, 2014 at 10:51 am

      Amen, amen, amen. Silly babies, knowing all the things. love.

  • Shauna January 6, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    This is beautiful.

    • karyn January 7, 2014 at 10:51 am

      Thanks, Shauna!

  • Kristin January 6, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    Beautiful and so full of truth. Thank you.

    • karyn January 7, 2014 at 10:50 am

      Thank you, Kristin. 🙂

  • Krista January 6, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    This is one of the most beautiful things I have read in a long time!

    • karyn January 7, 2014 at 10:50 am

      Aw, thank you, Krista. She’s a pretty beautiful little love.

  • Melanie January 6, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    So true and so beautifully expressed. I never knew how babies smiles would touch and melt the hearts of so many strangers before becoming a mother and it’s one of my favourite parts.

    • karyn January 7, 2014 at 10:49 am

      Right? Thanks, Melanie. 🙂

  • Jaqueline January 6, 2014 at 11:17 pm

    Thank you. My daughter wants to grin at people all day long.

    • karyn January 7, 2014 at 10:49 am

      It’s the greatest. Grin on, kiddo.

  • NATALIE DOWD January 7, 2014 at 12:33 am

    Lovely! I love the way you write, it’s how so many people feel but cannot articulate. Makes me think of my wee 5 month old innocent, chubby, happy little man who thinks he is the centre of everyone’s universe and smiles at all in sundry. He can really make someone’s day.

    I love your blog, so glad I found it. Well done you.

    • karyn January 7, 2014 at 10:49 am

      Aw, thanks! I’m glad you’re here. Isn’t it fun watching them light everyone up? It’s hard to stay in a bad mood when your kid is off giggling at everyone all of the time. 🙂 Love that.

  • Shoshana Rosenbaum January 7, 2014 at 7:44 am

    This is the most gorgeously written description of how babies are, as you say, whatever remains of heaven. Thank you for this. I am crying in a coffeeshop ( :

    • karyn January 7, 2014 at 10:47 am

      I am basically always crying in coffee shops. We can totally hang out. 🙂 Thank you for the sweet comment!

  • Jade Rose Topper January 7, 2014 at 10:44 am

    This was so beautiful and convicting! What a blessing she is 🙂

    • karyn January 7, 2014 at 10:47 am

      Thanks Jade. We are grateful every day. 🙂

    • karyn January 7, 2014 at 10:53 am

      Also, your blog lately, lovely? Stop it. I can’t take all the gorgeous. England looks stunning on you! xo.

  • Julia January 7, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    So beautiful, thanks for this lesson and reminder Karyn.

  • 4word Mentor Program Deadline, 8 Ways You’re Killing Your Startup, Scripture Memorization for the Rest of Us | 4word women January 9, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    […] Dear Beautiful Girl – Rules – Karyn with Girl of Cardigan pens a beautiful note to her daughter about how powerful an effect something as simple as her infant grin has on the world. […]

  • Talisa January 10, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Wow! I am so humbled by this beautiful piece. Me, the first time mom who rushes through the grocery store because everyone wants to stop and chat with my baby or touch her hand or her hair. Thank you for bringing me back to reality and putting me in my place. This literally brought me to tears.
    Thank you.

    • karyn January 10, 2014 at 2:54 pm

      Oh man, that is so me too – I often actively avoid trying to chat with people when I’m out running errands. She teaches me, this crazy extraverted kid I birthed. She knows things. 🙂 Thank you for your sweet comment.

  • Rachel January 17, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    Oh sister! (After reading this post, I just kinda feel like we are!) I never expected to learn how to truly live and love from my baby boy, but he is showing me. I so agree with you: please don’t let me be the one to teach him the rules! Keep that wide open smile going strong!

    • karyn January 20, 2014 at 9:58 am

      Amen. love! 🙂

  • Krista January 26, 2014 at 10:10 am

    Thanks again Karyn for writing what I have felt so often in my heart! My gift is not in words. Your gift is used so intently in my life!

    • karyn January 26, 2014 at 3:01 pm

      Aw, thank you for this, Krista. Comments like these make my whole week. Thank you.

  • Aimee February 7, 2014 at 8:35 am

    You are my favorite! You say thing exactly how I feel them! What an extraordinary gift! My little boy has taught me so much about Love and Grace that it’s strange to think I knew what they were before him! Thank you for writing. You always brighten my day! I’m a raving fan! 🙂

    • karyn February 7, 2014 at 10:05 pm

      Aw, Aimee, thank you!! You just brightened MY day! It’s a magical circle of raving fandom! 😉 Seriously, thank you for this. It’s crazy how humbling and massive and amazing and overwhelming parenting can be. I have never been more acutely aware of my own failures AND strengths. I am very, very grateful you’re here. love.

  • Jenna Lee April 2, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    Thank you so much for this blog. What paint such a beautiful picture and, of course, your message resonates with our hearts. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • karyn April 4, 2014 at 1:02 pm

      Thank you for the encouragement, Jenna! I appreciate it so much.