We stood in the cold wind watching the little ones race around the field in their first soccer game of the season, and I found myself wondering where they got all of their energy.
It didn’t take long before the goal of winning was lost in the excitement of the game. Most of the players were just too young to understand the importance of being ahead in the game – their focus was centered on keeping the wind from blowing the ball into the next field. Small bodies raced and dove for it, the intensity of their laughter filling the air.
Some of the adults watching grumbled. “They should have cancelled the game.” “It’s stupid to be trying to play in this wind.”
But most smiled proudly as the children reminded us, just for a moment, of the wonder of being alive – of living each moment to its fullest, of chasing a ball across a windblown field without worrying about looking foolish – or failing.
Many wise and wonderful writers have suggested that the greatest secret of life lies in finding that child within us, of re-discovering that wonder children have for the world around them; that sense of imagination and freedom that we lose all too soon.
As I watched the children playing, I realized that it wasn’t long before some of the smallest forgot that the kids with the different-colored shirts were on “the other team.” I overheard one of the adults ask, “Who’s winning?” And I had to smile when I heard a young mother reply, “The kids.”
At what point do we learn that it is better to not try than take the chance of failing? When do we lose that curiosity for new discoveries and replace it with the fear of people and things that are “different”?
I remember the first time I felt embarrassment and shame. We were given paper, glue, scissors and crayons, and instructed to create something “beautiful” to take home to our mothers. I cut, colored, glued and created, and then stepped back for my teacher to review my work.
“What a mess you have made!” she exclaimed. “Clean it up! You flunked this assignment!”
I wasn’t certain what “flunked” meant, but I knew it wasn’t good. That was in kindergarten – more than 50 years ago. Now that I’m an adult, I realize that my teacher must have been having a rough day, and I doubt that she thought much about that moment.
But I never tried creating that type of art again – especially if it involved glue and scissors.
Perhaps that is when I began to lose touch with that inner child; when I began to believe that the opinions of the people around me were important enough to worry more about them than what I believed about myself.
But there are moments when I am reminded that life can be a great adventure if we are willing to experience it instead of fearing it.
And those lessons are taught best by our children.