Children are our greatest gifts. This has been said so many times it has become somewhat like a worn out cliche, but that does not negate the truth of the words. I love having conversations with little ones. They impart so much wisdom, often in a humorous way, and always with blunt guileless honesty. I advise anyone engaging in an exchange with a child to put aside their personal egos and just set back and enjoy the new perspective you are going to gain.
We all have “Kids say the darndest things” storeys. They are cute and amusing; for example one of my nieces replied to the comment that she had her shoes on the wrong feet with a puzzled look “But these are the only feet I have”. Then was farther confused when we could not hide our laughter.
However some of the most interesting conversation I’ve had with children were with kids I didn’t know. In today’s climate this doesn’t happen often because one has to be careful, not just for our own sake but mostly for the children, I would never want to undo the lessons they are taught at home and school about not talking to strangers.
Recently I was privileged to have two such encounters with two remarkable little boys. My grandson attends Tae Kown Do lessons and I transport him and sat in the area provided for parents while he goes through his exercise. There is a class of younger children right before his,and as the children from that class were gathering their belongings before leaving one boy, who was waiting for his parent, stood in front of me staring intently. I smiled and this was apparently the only opening he needed.
“Are you a Jew?” he asked in a firm voice.
Wow, what a question, I was surprised to say the least. I answered no, and waited with held breath to see where this was going. He then informed me that he was Jewish and that there weren’t many Jews in our town so he just wondered…adding because of my necklace. Aw I thought, it began to make perfect sense. You see I wear a Cross and a Star of David on the same chain, both for personal reasons, I’m Christian and feel a close spiritual connection with Jewish people and their history and beliefs. I have worn it for so long it’s a part of me and I didn’t think of it in connection with his question. I explained briefly why I wear both the Christian and Jewish symbols. He was evidently satisfied, for he then chatted away about King David, the synagogue, his rabbi and favorite Holidays. Without me adding my opinion he decided my not being a Jew was alright because there is “only one God”. This sharing ended too soon because his ride arrived.
My other talk was with an even younger boy whose Mom and sister are both in my grandsons’ class at the same martial arts school. Mom seated him next to me and told him to play quietly as she handed him a small bag of toys. Without encouragement on my part he immediately showed me all his Hot Wheel cars. Regaling me with stories of how fast they were. Then with a sudden switch of subject he touched my hand and said,
“My skin is slick but yours is all loose and has lines. How’d you get those lines?”
I suppressed my amusement and matched his serious manner while telling him it was because of my age. He enquired about my age after telling me he was four years old. He then discussed the lines on my face and declared that they were neat and he wanted to have lines of his own when he got old, elevating my wrinkles to a badge of honor. Before I could respond another quick silver switch of topics took place.
“Do you like lizards? Have you ever caught a lizard? I caught three lizards.” he rattled off in his rapid cadence, not waiting for me to answer.
This is one of the best part of children’s conversations, takes very little effort to hold up my end, just the art of listening. So he told me about the lizards, explaining the best technique for catching them because “they are super fast”. He explained how he put them in a box and took them into his room, but that later his mom said he needed to let them go outdoors so they could find bugs to eat.
“Bugs are their favorite food.” he informed me. Then proceeded to list his favorites,” My favorite is hamburgers, oh and mac and cheese and ….etc.etc.” he rambled on until he had listed at least fifteen of his “very most favorite of all”.
Then his cherub face turned serious, “If I tell you a secret, you promise not to tell anybody?” he asked while making a cross your heart sign on his small chest.
Oh no, my mind swirls. Choosing my words with care I tell him only if the secret is safe to keep. He contemplates this for a few seconds, then nods and with wisdom beyond his four years says, “Yeah some things can’t be secrets, but this ones o.k.” he brightens,and leaning towards me whispers, “When I let the lizards go there were only two in the box,” looking around, he giggles, “That means there is one in the house somewhere.”
The class ended before I had to reply.
The tragedy in Connecticut today stirred these memories of two special little boys who shared their thoughts with me so freely and in so doing gave me a gift of delight. The world was robbed today of wonders that will never be shared. Most of all the parents, families and friends were robbed of the future gifts these children had to give. My hope is that some day those who have to suffer such a great lose will one day be able to talk and smile about the memories that will always live in their hearts. Prayers for the rough journey they all have to go through. May peace and love bring some comfort.