Learning from Children



I was recently coming home from a walk when I noticed a family standing on their driveway off in the distance. As I approached, a little boy started to walk toward me. I stopped, waved and smiled. How could you not? He stopped and started to bounce on his toes, letting me know he had something very exciting to share. “I drew a shark!” he said. “Look! I did it.” I did look and told him I loved it, along with a few other words that seemed to come out after my own feet had the urge to bounce out an exclamation as well. For the rest of the day, I had a new found desire to see what I could do.

Jesus says that wisdom and understanding are revealed to little children. He goes as far to say that they are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 11:25, 18:1-5) Remember the book All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? Ask any kindergartner and they tell you who is kind. They’ll tell you what really happened. The teacher said this and then Susie did that. They’ll also have wonderful and crazy ideas about so many things if you take the time to listen.

Often, things are not as they seem with children. I learned early on as an elementary school teacher and then again as a parent, just how important it is to ask children questions. Why are there little mud mounds siting by the back door? Oh, you’re making cakes for the birds. Why are you not taking your turn at the learning center? Oh, you know that Johnny gets nervous about things so you are standing back and letting him go first.

I guess we’ve been doing some unexpected things ourselves this past year. Trevor Hudson, a pastor from South Africa, said that the pandemic has “knocked everyday life out of shape.” Lately I have talked to many who are dealing with grief and disappointment and overall weariness. So many are grieving the loss of loved ones and relationships or dealing with medical challenges. Some are saddened by things not being as they thought they would be. It can be hard to feel like you are making progress when you’re in the middle of a valley. It can make you wonder if you’ll ever arrive at the other end.

Children seem to know we need time to play and eat and nap. They know there is a time to run around and then a time to pass out in your Daddy’s lap. Children learn best through play. Anne Lamott observes, “What people somehow (inadvertently, I’m sure) forget to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here.”

Things are still messy. We continue to live in the aftermath of having our lives knocked out of shape and with the challenges of the pandemic, death. Illness, and loss in its many forms. In the messiness, maybe we can discover ourselves and our lives in a new way. Maybe we can take the time to do what is needed for today. Maybe we can try new things. Maybe we can draw a shark or do battle with one. And as we do, maybe we’ll discover we can do more than we thought possible.