Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I Believe

About two years ago, I wrote an essay for one of my classes. We were to follow the format of NPR's "I Believe" program, wherein one was given a certain number of words to quickly say something poignant they had learned, relating a story that illustrated that point. It could be inspirational, amusing, emotional, or any combination of these, so long as it was true and had some meaning to the person who related the story. Here is the essay I wrote. And just to add, I still believe this.

I believe in the ability of children to learn. It's what they're built for. From the beginning, they're watching everything around them, grabbing little tidbits of information and putting them to use in their own little lives. From the very beginning, nothing escapes their notice. From bugs, to trees, to that sound that the furnace makes when it turns on to heat up the water when Mom takes her shower, they pay attention to things that simply escape us... the more mature, more worldly-wise grown-ups.

I love playing with my nieces and nephews. I love seeing their eyes light up as they make new discoveries. I recall the look in the eyes of one of my nephews when he was four years old. He proudly walked up to me carrying a half-gallon tin brimming with marbles. His eyes sparkled as he looked at me and said, "This is going to be SO COOL!" I grinned, curious about his plans. My curiosity turned to dismay, however, as he took the tin, held it in both hands and squatted in preparation, and launched its contents into the air. Even today, I would swear that for a few moments, time stood still. I can still see the individual marbles as they fell to the ground, skipping into cracks and crevices, rolling behind bookshelves and sofas, never to be seen again. I remember each little ping as they danced off of foldable metal chairs, struck the panes of the French door behind him, clattered off my own head. For a moment, I was annoyed.

However, even more clearly, I remember the look of wonder in his eyes as he watched this shower of jewels cascading around him. For a brief moment, I was able to see through those eyes, to catch the twinkle of every precious gem, to drink in this one moment and sap every instant of unadulterated joy. To him, it was a magical moment... an event of wonder.

Later, when I recalled this incident, I wondered when it was that I had let that feeling of wonder slip away. When I think about it, it wasn't that long ago that I was fascinated by little things like falling marbles, loud noises, tumbling games in the living room, rain puddles to splash in, or tiny creeping bugs going about their busy little lives. And yet, I didn't seem to notice them any more. Instead, I focused on things like how to pass my chemistry class, whether I could get a date for the weekend, and if by some stroke of luck I did, whether I would be able to pay for gas to pick her up anyway. And I realized that I had let that feeling of wonder get away from me.

So now, I listen to cricket songs. I pay more attention to those sunsets. I splash in rain puddles. And if I see a bucket of marbles, I'm sometimes tempted to toss them in the air, just to see what would happen, to recreate that moment of joy and look through the eyes of that four-year-old boy that I used to be. I try to see things as a child would and learn all I can about the world... and about myself.

I believe in the ability of children to learn. And I believe in their ability to teach.

A picture of my niece from this last week. I think it illustrates this point quite well.