I believe in seeing the world through the eyes of a child. When my nieces and nephews are with me on an all-too-rare but wonderful weekend and we go to Harrybrooke Park in my home town of New Milford, Connecticut, they remind me of the beauty of nature, how relative time really is, and to live life with wonder, curiosity, and also a deep sense of engagement. The little children will stop along the pathways to pick up rocks and with amazement in their high-pitched voices, they show me beautiful colors and contours. Like life itself, these silent rocks are easy to take for granted. As I close my fingers around those age-old rocks, I wonder whether as an adult my tight-fisted hold on the past, my own past, is paralyzing me in some ways. I see the children, though, living in the eternity of the moment, and what a beautiful moment that is when we’re at the park.
Sometimes my nieces and nephews will suddenly squat down to stare at ants scurrying back and forth to their anthills carrying seeds. I soon find myself fascinated by these highly organized, complex creatures that come in and out of cracks in the pavement through little hills of dirt. On the tip of my tongue is to recount the fable of the industrious ants that prepared for the winter and the lazy grasshopper that played the whole summer away.
But I say nothing. These ants that seem always to be in a hurry remind me of myself. Perhpas I live not only too much in the past but also too much in the future, planning for tomorrow while frittering away today.
My nieces and nephews have helped me to rediscover many of the simple pleasures of life. Whenever adults let them, they take time to smell the flowers, to admire their colors, to feel the soft petals. Through their stature and vulnerability, children seem to be reminding us that life is short so we must embrace it.
Seeing through the eyes of a small child also means accepting others with a pure heart. More precisely than any adult, children can easily penetrate pretty facades to the inner person, to the essential qualities. Money and power do not impress a young child but kindness, a sense of humor, and understanding do. Moreover, small children don’t care if the people that they love are tall, short, fat, thin, young, old, black, white, female, male, straight, gay, or whether they are Republicans or Democrats, from one country or another, or what their religious beliefs are if they have any. Seeing through and in a child’s eyes is very healing indeed. The acceptance and trust of a child nourishes the soul.
Sometimes when I reflect on the suffering and injustice in the world, I feel a sense of shame as I look into the bright, eager, innocent eyes of the children. Sadly I know that the veil of illusion will one day slip away. They will come to comprehend that the world of adults isn’t fair and free as they believe. I realize, too, that there will be disappointment in their lives even with the people they love.
I can only hope that a part of the child in them will never grow up but will instead continue to marvel at the beauty and mystery of life, will continue to stay curoius, to imagine the impossible, to speak with sincerity, to accept rather than to condemn others, and to touch people’s lives for good in a world that is often so harsh and uncertain.
When I wake up in the morning now, I don’t just look at the alarm clock taking time away but rather I see it giving me a whole new day full of wonderful possibilities as I know my nieces and nephews do. I see a silent glimmer in the early-morning hills that is tentative and tender… like innocence. And when the sun goes down, I see a sky filled with soft night lights and beautiful dreams glowing with the hope and the promise of tomorrow.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.