Becoming Children Again

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The lovers of life, they are children at heart always in their wonder and delight.

—-Elizabeth Goudge

Have you ever noticed that there is a certain innocence about truly happy individuals. They somehow manage to find the good in people wherever they go. They get excited about the world around them, even when the things that they experience are quite homely and small. It doesn’t take much to make them smile or garner their appreciation. It is as though they see life in a manner quite different from most of us, but in reality they are generally all too aware of the challenges that we all face. The difference in their level of joy comes not from being lucky enough to never endure distress, but in the manner in which they face the ups and downs of living. They somehow hold fast to the wonder and delight of childhood, making them such pleasant people with whom to be.

Living is always about making choices and among the decisions that we encounter each day is the manner in which we react to both our successes and our failures. If we maintain an optimistic mindset we understand that our journeys may become quite difficult, but ultimately we will find the way to work ourselves out of even the darkest times. I suppose that I first learned this from my mother, a woman whose existence was wrought with so much pain and disappointment. In spite of all the terrible things that happened to her she was known far and wide as someone with a perennial smile on her face and a generous spirit. Sometimes she actually frustrated me with her almost childlike insistence that she was ultimately going to be just fine.

My father had died and we were always low on money, but she never seemed to worry about how we would survive. She budgeted like a CPA and managed to find what we needed again and again. She could have taught a course on how to feed a family of four on little or no income. She knew how to turn a roast or a pot of beans into multiple delicious and satisfying meals. Nothing was ever wasted in her kitchen, the fact of which she was quite proud. She taught me and my brothers the art of being satisfied and thankful for whatever we had. She was able to turn an evening at home with television reruns into a gala event. Somehow she even made a game of cleaning the house each week, so much so that we looked forward to the mopping and dusting. She would continuously remark that we were so lucky. She had a knack for finding the silver lining in virtually every situation which made her a great ally to have around.

I have a good friend named Cappy who is much like my mom. In spite of a series of circumstances that would have laid most mortals low, she seems to have a big grin permanently tattooed on her face. She finds fun in doing things that would generally seem quite ordinary simply because she chooses to be happy. It’s the one thing over which she has total control, and she takes full advantage of her ability to rise above her circumstances. Her attitude is amazingly upbeat in spite of the fact that she recently broke her hip and is the caretaker for an invalid husband. She gets a kick out of going to the local Kroger store and trying the food samples. She watches movies and programs from a laptop rather than owning a big screen television. She recycles everything that comes her way to save even more money. She operates on a budget that many might claim is impossibly small, and does so with panache.

I note time and again that the happiest people that I know live quite simply and appear to enjoy themselves no matter where they are. They go through floods and illnesses and even deaths with a positive outlook. They rarely complain of being beset upon. Like children they delight in the wonder around them rather than pining away for a different life.

I’ve certainly attempted to model their behavior of late. I find that I need far less than I once thought I did. I can spend time watching the hummingbird who flits among my hibiscus plants. I get a kick out of observing the antics of the geckos that seem to have taken over my backyard. I watch the clouds and imagine what kind of shapes they form. I listen to the buoy bell that hangs near my garden swing and recall a long ago trip that I took to Maine with my husband and two good friends. I plan the lessons for the children that I teach and feel so thankful that my brain appears to still be operating quite well. I enjoy the music that I have collected over the years and gaze in my yard at the flowers that have begun to bloom profusely again now that the weather is a bit cooler than it has been of late. I look forward to the class that I will soon begin at Rice University, and my heart fills with expectation of Friday night football games and trick or treaters on Halloween.

I have friends who continuously post images of their children on Facebook. Those little faces are so filled with wonder and delight. I see a promising future for all of us in their expressions. I doubt that their parents realize how much happiness I experience in seeing them. I laugh and smile from ear to ear at their antics and feel a sense of hopefulness that we are all going to be just fine. I am led to a place of great contentment by the little ones. I  constantly learn from them even when all they do is giggle.

I realize that many people that I know are dealing with great heartache and that they are weighed down by situations that sometimes seem insurmountable. What I have learned is that at such times we must be like children who haven’t yet grown cynical or unwilling to take risks. We must pause long enough to enjoy building a fort out of sheets, playing inside a cardboard box, or imagining the impossible. Once we adjust our mindsets from thinking, “I can’t” to “not yet, but I will” we become capable of not just enduring hard times but of overcoming them with smiles on our faces. We become childlike again and in that transformation we often find the answers that we seek.

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