Children start out so innocent and impressionable, wide-eyed, bushy-tailed and eager to learn about everything around them. They aren’t jaded by the turmoil, struggles and issues swirling around us. They see beauty and wonder everywhere. Maybe it’s time we stopped and looked through their eyes. As we age, knowledge and new interactions become exhausting, time consuming and no longer desired. We just want to focus on getting through the day. But, look at the sweet innocence flowing from your children. Look at where we started and where we are now. Is this really who we want to be? Most of us would love to turn back the clock to those exciting, fun filled times when we looked at each day as a new beginning, a new adventure, a new experience. Believing life is wonderful, to be enjoyed and lived to the fullest, with wild abandon. Not to be dealt with or trudged through.
Years ago, I read an article about how people over 30 felt making new friends later in life wasn’t an option. By then they were too entrenched in their lives with no time to add anyone else. How sad to think that’s true. So many of us live to survive. To get through the work day, to get through our chores, pay our bills, prepare for tomorrow, get some sleep and start all over again. When did we close ourselves off, set ourselves apart and decide to keep our head down, preferring not to engage anyone outside our immediate sphere?
I remember sitting at an airport departure gate for a couple of hours when flying home on vacation. My daughter must’ve been about 5 years old and like any child, she was fidgety, wanting to do more than just sit and color. Over the next half hour, other families joined us. Eventually she stood up and plopped herself on the floor between everyone’s seats and started to play with a paper airplane. I watched in fascination and awe how one after another all the other kids wanted to play as well. It didn’t matter their age, their ethnicity, their sex, or their destination. For now, they were all engaged in helping each other have fun. There they were, sitting together, total strangers, giggling and sharing for as long as time allowed. It wasn’t important that they’d never see one another again. The parents arrayed around them smiled and watched protectively but not one offered any small talk. Why? What changed from youth to adulthood where just enjoying the opportunity to meet and share with another human being is never considered? When did those walls go up, making it clear- “don’t approach, this is my space, do not invade”? Just like on a bus, subway, or plane, all types of possibilities pass us by because we’ve lost that wonderful innocence that lets us charge ahead and say,
“Hi my name is Suzy, what’s yours? Where are you from? Where are you going?”
After marveling at the wondrous example, I finally turned to all the parents and said,
“Aren’t they amazing?”
As though given permission, the flood gate opened and an animated conversation began. I’ve never forgotten that moment, or those people. I’ll never see them again, but we shared something special. I often thought, did they think about how easy it was for our kids to open themselves up and how hard it was for us? Or how unlikely it was that we would have even started a conversation had it not been for their actions? My daughter made me remember how invigorating and enlightening it is to push beyond our self made boundaries.
Because of her precocious desire to interact in protected, safe environments, we met an array of interesting people. Such as a group of 30 year-old women traveling for the first time to the Caribbean. They were taught to overcome their fear of water and snorkeling by my 6 year- old. We met a Russian couple who wanted to start a family, but worried a future of whiny and difficult kids would ultimately end their life of work and travel. Meeting an articulate, outgoing, courteous little girl who wanted nothing more then to learn where they came from, while sharing a quiet dinner on a cruise with her single, professional mother opened their eyes to new possibilities. To this day, I have the baby picture they later sent me!
Children help us to see how looking up, and towards others can enrich our lives with new perspectives. Everyone has something to offer us, only by allowing them in will we know what that is. Some interactions may not last more than a few minutes, but who knows what the others may bring. Imagine all we may be missing when we pass them by.