It was a perfect autumn afternoon and one month into the eighth grade when I was walking home by myself. That year, my neighbor and best friend Sarah had begun her first year in high school and not seeing her for a month after spending every day together the past summer was unbearable. But that day, I noticed her raking the fallen leaves in her front yard. A grin spread across my face at once and I ran over to her where we quickly caught up with each other’s monotonous lives. I offered to lend a hand and she gladly accepted. We gathered another rake and a portable CD player. While we rummaged the leaves into a pile beneath the tree, guilty pleasures of our childhood streamed from the small speakers. Before we knew it, we were running and jumping into our cushion of leaves, posing as super heroes and screaming as we hit the ground. Countless kids walked past us on their way home, gawking at our ‘immaturity’ but we paid them no mind. Drivers snickered while they waited for their green light but they didn’t matter. We let go of the world in our laughs until the broken pieces of leaves in our hair became uncomfortable. I helped her scrape up the pile into a giant paper bag, which she later put in her garage and I left with a casual farewell.
I believe in the six-year-old living inside the heart of every human being. I believe this child has the right to show its colors once in a while. We’ve all heard of far too many instances of children and adolescents who end up giving away their childhood due to their circumstances, whether it be caring for a family member or being forced into horrific dilemmas. As for those of us who have a choice, I think a boundless number of people are so worried about appearing nonchalant and under control that they become positively boring. We owe it to ourselves and the people around us to loosen our neckties and kick off our shoes. Even if it is just once in a great while that let go, it would be so much more valuable than the paycheck that buys the junk you sell in your front yard five years later.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.