This past summer, I worked at a YMCA day camp for elementary school students. Looking back on it now, I think part of me went into camp with big expectations on how I could influence my campers’ lives and be a positive role model to them. Being the baby of my family, I was always the one doing the “looking up to,” and now I was about to have thirty second graders looking up to me. While I was so certain I’d be able to fill them with extensive knowledge and worldly wisdom, as the summer stretched on, I began to realize that quite the opposite was happening. I was learning from them.
About halfway through the summer I started to realize something about my campers—they could see excitement in anything. What could be seen as a miserable rainy day to an adult is instead an opportunity to splash in puddles to a child. I know that the world can be hard sometimes. I know that most days it’s a whole lot easier to want to be cynical and complain about the state of our society. But why? Why add to the negativity of the world? Why not try to regain that childlike joy that we all once had, the childlike joy that told you it was okay to put on your Halloween costume two hours [okay, let’s be honest, two days] early. The childlike joy that told you it was okay to jump up and down with excitement upon catching your first firefly or the rush of adrenaline you felt the first time your dad let go of the bike and you realized you were, in fact, riding a big girl bike all by yourself.
The simple fact of the matter is children have a certain indescribable whimsy about them. When you are seven years old, your top priorities include things like what you’ll be eating for snack and whether or not you’ll be on the same kickball team as your best friend. As we age, however, we seem to lose this sense of innocence. Perhaps it is the stress, worry, and harshness of the “real world” that gets us down. Or perhaps it is simply because we forget to see things as we did a decade ago.
My challenge for you for the next week is to regain some of that childlike innocence you once had. Don’t be so quick to criticize others. In elementary school you were friends with everyone. Stop caring what people think. When you were eight you probably met your best friend by squirting chocolate milk out of your nose. Keep asking questions, I promise they aren’t as dumb as you think they are. But most importantly, stop being afraid. When you were young you yearned for the spotlight. You’d jump into the swimming pool only after making sure everybody was watching you. But then you grew up and were content to fade into the background, not wanting to draw attention to yourself for fear of failure or being judged. But if you live life in fear, I can say, with confidence that you aren’t living at all. Real living comes from laughing until you cry or jumping as high as you can off the swings. Real living is taking risks and being bold and standing for what you believe in. Real living includes whimsy—and I think it’s important to hold on to that. The first line of the Lee Ann Womack song, “I Hope you Dance” sums everything up beautifully: “I hope you never lose your sense of wonder.” After all, wonder is a beautiful thing.