This I Believe: In Childhood

Mar 16, 2009

Perhaps you have heard the saying “everything I need to know, I learned in Kindergarten”.  I believe that that is true. All of the traits that can make us better, more worthwhile people can be rediscovered by following the examples of children. In short, I believe in the simple purity and boundlessness of childhood, where tolerance, hope and excitement for life come naturally.  

In short, I believe in the simple purity and boundlessness of childhood, where tolerance, hope and excitement for life come naturally.

If there is any hope for the future, it is the children keeping a little of their inner child with them as they mature. This idea is not something on which I reflected much, at least not until the end of November 2008. At that time, I had a rather grown-up, unromantic view of Christmas, though it was very magical to me when I was a child. As a member of National Honor Society, I was out to find my monthly volunteer hours, and the Mini O’Bierne Crisis Nursery’s holiday store was an acceptable place.

My duties for the night mostly included supervising small children as they bought donated presents for their friends and family, using their parent’s money. It amazed me how sweet and generous the kids could be, thoughtfully selecting gifts for their loved ones. They still had the Christmas spirit that I had largely lost.

One boy in particular, Ben, was really incredible. He was caring, intelligent and inspiring. In my hand now, I hold the gift tag on which he tried to write his cousin Nathan’s name; he tried to spell it, “T-W-A”. I fought down a chuckle and felt guilty. I was reminded of my time as a shopper at the holiday store, of my own childhood. Why had I laughed? Ben would not have laughed at me, and neither would the old me. I realized I had changed.

This is just one example of me seeing room for self-improvement through a child. I could use my own childhood-self as an example, as well. Sure, I may be able to beat my 6-year-old self in a trivia match, I might be able to school him in a game of one-on-one basketball, and I would probably be able to beat him in a local essay-writing contest, but when I reflect about all of the things that really matter, my 6-year-old self had everything right. I miss the imagination he used when he played with Lego blocks, the thirst for adventure he showed when he trekked thought the “forest” outside our neighborhood, and his ability to live in the moment and never take things too seriously.

Now, I’m not trying to generalize and I am not saying we should all act like toddlers; obviously small children have their own weaknesses. What I am trying to say is that there is a certain something built into the youthful spirit that gives children an incredible capacity for unconditional love and imagination. Ironically, while they need us as role models, those kindergarteners have much to teach us as well.

Today’s world pressures children to grow up too fast; it is a place that tends to grind the child-like hope and boldness out of us far too soon. If we can keep our inner child alive as long as we are and draw on that youthful spark throughout our lives, if we can blend the best of youth and adulthood, I believe we can enjoy a happier, more peaceful world.