“When I am ten, I will run fast and climb big trees.”
Some nights my wife and I help get our grandkids settled and into bed when our son-in-law works nights as an ER nurse. After teeth are brushed and a book is read, my four-year-old grandson and I talk about his day. He typically mentions his best friends who he played with that day and it is frequently the case that he talks about the future – looking ahead to the time when he can do the things his big sister, who is six, does. Occasionally, he looks further into the future and on one night a short time ago told me, “When I am ten, I will run fast and climb big trees.” This statement keeps bubbling up in my ponderings.
When we were at this age there seemed to be very clear questions we asked within ourselves as we encountered people in our lives; Is this person kind – especially to kids? Do they share the swing on the playground? Do they laugh? Do they make me laugh? By the time we are ten, we’ve built on that foundation and already developed a sense of who we want to be – our parents providing the model. If you were unfortunate enough not to have a good parental model, you piece together that sense as best you could from the examples you find around you – be they teachers, neighbors or friends. Along the way, you made use of that four-year-old perspective and asked those ever important questions. And if you paid attention you come face-to-face with wonder and become excited about possibilities.
Now as an adult all of that wonder and wondering seems such a long time ago and indeed it was. At times I am still receptive to the ever present wonder but the daily pace of a hectic life crowds it out all too frequently. But that little four-year-old with the vision of himself with the wind in his hair and the thrill of perching on a high branch helped me find it again. It came at a good time.
I admit to being melancholy throughout this last election cycle and the cause goes well beyond the differences in perspective. Those differences have always existed but didn’t rise to the recent level of incivility or unkindness. In the past, once the frenzy of the elections passed your neighbor still bagged your groceries at the market, the mechanic still fixed your car, and your neighbors still shoveled the snow from the widow’s driveway up the street – all without care or mention of political leanings. Neighbors were simply neighbors and not much else needed to be understood. So it should be again. Through the eyes of a four-year-old, things are pretty simple and I find that simple questions in self-reflection are hard to improve upon: “Are you kind? Do you share? Do you laugh? and Do you make others laugh?” Neighbors are still neighbors and yes, I will share the swing.
A four-year-old’s vision can also be a prayer: I wish for all of us that when we are ten, we will run fast and climb big trees.