“The soul is healed by being with children.”
Sitting in the waiting room full of very serious adults, many anxious about the meeting they would be having with the doctor, the small child burst with a sound. My first reaction was to hold my breath, uncertain of whether it was a laugh or a cry, but looking up from my book, I saw the face staring back at me, looking as if he had just heard the best joke. I melted. Feeling the tension of others in the room, I commented on what a pleasant diversion a child can be, and I watched as the other adults began to look at him and laugh with him at nothing in particular. The mood of the room immediately lightened, as, I have to believe, did the souls. Dostoevsky’s words are as true today as they were almost 150 years ago, being with children can heal the soul.
I believe I can say with a great deal of certainty that children awaken ready to take on the world, ready to have fun, and never consider a to-do list that will guide their activities. The added bonus of knowing that the day will include a greatly-anticipated playdate doesn’t add weight to their shoulders but instead tends to put a kick in their step to move from here to there. What do you envision when you think of greeting your day as a child might?
“Hooray, I get to run through the house and take all of the trash from all of the wastebaskets and throw them in the big garbage can outside!” might be our approach to garbage day, instead of muttering to yourself, “Great, guess I’ll take the garbage out,” or worse, “Hey, wait up, I forgot to get the can out last night!” as we run down the driveway when the familiar screech of wheels hits our street.
“Oh, my goodness! I get to go to the grocery and see the pretty vegetables! I can’t wait to see the checkout person and tell them all about my day!” Not adults. We tend to put off going to the grocery as long as we can and often dread the small talk that we know awaits us at the register.
“Guess where we get to go today? The place that gives out stickers! Come on, let’s go!” An adult might offer a less enthusiastic, “I guess I’m going to have to bite the bullet and go to the bank/electric company/department store and deal with all of those people.”
Greeting life with wonder is one of the things I most admire in children. My friend, who is a third-grade teacher, agreed that the curiosity and innocence of children is one of her biggest delights being in the classroom. What happens that we begin to view life as a list of things we have to do, that we see taking care of things we own as drudgery, and that we become overwhelmed with people instead of enjoying the opportunities to hear new stories?
Living without grudges is another thing I appreciate about children. Speaking with a friend recently, we marveled at the way a child can have a fight with his best friend, maybe even getting a bloody nose or bruised feelings, yet the next day they are both ready to play together again. How do we get from that to where we are, and more importantly, how do we go from where we are back to those moments of excitement, anticipation, acceptance of other people and of ourselves?
Finding joy in any situation rounds out my top three things I really admire in kids. If you’ve ever been in a funeral home trying to hold yourself together amidst the sadness, there is nothing quite like the diversionary tactics of a small child to get your mind off of things for a moment. I don’t understand death and sadness any more than they do, but I wish I could take life the way it comes as they seem to do pretty well.
We have all been children, but not everyone enjoys being with children. They can be loud, they might run around when we think they should sit still, and they can be messy — just like adults, but they are not adults. They are miniature versions who can be let off the hook for questionable behavior (until they reach a certain age). I love children and want to suggest that even for those who cringe when a child is on board the plane or seated in the restaurant, there is a reason to celebrate. I believe it is in watching a child that we are able to revisit a time we were freer spirits, less constrained by the shoulds and should nots of the adult world, and quite possibly happier without knowing why or having to know.
The next time you realize a child is going to be in the same restaurant or doctor’s office as you, why not watch (in a completely not creepy way). Maybe you’ll come away feeling that you, too, can be a superhero or find wonder and joy in the simplest discoveries as you let yourself be a kid again. If you have a chance to help a friend with their child for an hour or two, do it. You might laugh at something silly, lighten your cares, and just possibly heal your soul.