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I am always captivated by the joy of children. Their charming delight in everyday amazements like sprinklers, puddles, mud pies, bugs, and all manner of “don’t play with that” things. You can give a small child a string, and he or she will go on playing with it for as long as it does things that they do not expect. A piece of twine is an endless line of discovery. (Much like the thneads in Dr. Suess’s The Lorax). I was watching a little boy one time while his parents were away, and we were running out of things to do. He had already watched a movie, and we had played outside for a while. I decided that lunch was the perfect way to occupy both mind and body for at least a brief time, so we made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and sat at the table talking about the movie. The talking was more akin to a stream of sound effects and indiscernible jelly colored language mixed with the occasional roar for dramatic effect, but it was entertaining and kept him in one place effectively. After our brief stop for sustenance, we pondered over what the next conquest would be. The choices were limited to: the evil emperor (played involuntarily by the baby), the stairs (on hands and knees as a horse mind you), or the kingdom (a charming description of the backyard with the playset as the castle).
After running to and fro after small knights ensuring that their swords are not used in any way that may get them (or me) banished, I was quite exhausted, so I proceeded to search my extensive archive of secret games to find a more “sedentary” activity. My mind lighted on a brilliant idea. I pulled the charging young Sir to the side and fixed him with my most mesmerizing gaze and spoke with all the mystery of the grandest adventure.
“Did you know, that ants are the strongest creatures for their size in the world??? They can lift things 12 times their weight, and carry it by themselves…” His eyes got wide. “Have you ever fed the ants and seen them carry away their spoils?” He shook his head. I glanced over at the uneaten crusts of the sandwich laying on the table and widened my eyes in mock (mostly) amazement. Whispering, I asked, “Would you like to feed them?” His face grew bright with the idea, and he nodded passionately. I had won him. We packed up the crusts for the journey, and he brought his sword. Finding the largest anthill in the kingdom, we very carefully broke the crusts into tiny pieces and dropped them around the hill. At first, the tiny peasants were alarmed at the bread falling from the sky. Bolting into the hill or into the grass most disappeared within seconds. The little knight became disappointed and wanted to leave, but I encouraged him to wait for just a little longer and see what happened. Sure enough, the little ants came cautiously out from the hill to inspect the good smelling morsels that had been dropped around their home. The first brave little member attempting to pull a piece many times his size into the hole. The little knight lit with an unabashed joy at what he had just witnessed. He had just fed the ants… Something he had never done in his whole entire life. My heart swells remembering the sweet blue eyes blazing with curiosity and wonder. They steal my heart.
I wonder many times if it would be too childish of us to re-learn this type of wonder. The simple kind that delights in possibility and needs very little fuel to make it ignite. What kind of ideas would be had at the unbridling of our tethered inner youth? Would cures be discovered in a moment of passionate discovery and free exploration? Would galaxies be breached because of a whimsical moment under the stars? Would peace, and love, and hunger, and war transform before our very eyes because of the childlike eyes with which we view them? It is worth wondering I think. To wander wondering for a little while, while admiring the glory of a child.