I believe in childhood innocence and the appreciation of life. I remember a time when a butterfly was a bug and a lake was full of mysteries, and crayons were the only tools, a time when my ability to categorize did not exist and my ability to forgive was truly effortless.
Ashley was my childhood companion. Every day with Ashley was a new adventure bringing new aspects to my life. One day, we were swinging upside down on a porch swing located in the back of the house near the edge of a hill. The porch swing faced a beautiful landscape with a pond below and a trail to a dark forest in the corner. We lay down with our feet in the air, where our heads should have been. Our hair fell straight, pulled down by gravity and our laughter filled the valley. Life itself, at that moment, was perfect.
Ashley’s fingers stroked the dirt as we swung. “What happens to our bodies when we die?” asked Ashley. “I don’t know. I suppose they dissolve into the ground and turn into sand.”
“Yeah, so I’m probably touching someone’s nose right now.” Ashley dug her nails into the soil. “But what happens to us? Where do we go?”
“You mean our brains? My Grandpa told me our hearts go to heaven and if you don’t believe in God, you will die forever.”
“Wow! I don’t believe in God.”
My heart sunk. The wind suddenly got colder and my arms felt bare. I adjusted my weight so I was sitting up right. What did she mean she didn’t believe in God?
Ashley pushed my side as she shouted. “You’re it!” She started off for the path into the woods. I got up slowly to follow.
She stopped running when she arrived beneath a huge oak tree. “This,” she said, “is what we can climb to see the end of the world. May be we will even see God’s face in the clouds.” She laughed at her own joke.
Ashley was already fixing her grip on the lowest limb. As she climbed higher, I sank lower into my thoughts. I felt confused and upset. Ashley was already on the highest branch. I remained below. I stood on the ground and looked up at Ashley. I compared her to other friends. I categorized everyone. On one side I placed everyone in my life who believed in a higher power. On the other, was Ashley. I never even noticed before. I never looked at Ashley and saw, ‘Atheist.’ I saw a friend. But the simplicities of life were no longer simple.
At age fifteen, it’s hard to imagine a world where people don’t judge and categorize; A world where everyone lives in childhood innocence, that world would be a heaven. And if you climbed to the highest limb and peered out, you would not be searching for a better place, because you would already be living in a brilliant world. This, I believe.
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