Reclaiming Our Inner Child
One summer day, I stopped at a bank to take care of some business. The atmosphere could not have been more different from my usual friendly small town bank. I was directed to a waiting area with chairs grouped in a square. I immediately noticed that the other people waiting were sitting stiff as boards and not making eye contact. So I assumed a formal pose, too.
Suddenly, the door slid open and let in a burst of fresh air. He walked holding his mother’s hand and looking all around with curious eyes. This little guy must have been four or five years old, with sandy hair and freckles sprinkled across his face. His mother brought him to the waiting area and told him to sit and wait for her.
He immediately looked at me and said “hi” in a voice that echoed in the open space. I smiled and said “hi.” Then his eyes fell on a book on the side table. He handed it to me and asked, “Will you read this to me?” I explained that the “book” was a realtor’s magazine, and suggested that he pretended he was buying a house and pick one out. He opened it and pointed: “I’ll take that one.”
As I took the magazine back, he noticed my hand. “Ohhh, what happened?” he asked. I told him how I had cut my finger while making dinner. As I talked, his little brow stayed wrinkled with concern and he kept repeating “ooh…” With so much sympathy gushing from him, I almost wished that I’d hurt myself worse than I had.
Next, his eyes darted to the high ceiling. “Is that a giant spider up there?” I looked up and saw a skylight with black wrought iron bars radiating out from a center circle. While I was trying to explain that one, I noticed that the other people in the waiting area had been listening and were now smiling and relaxed. What a difference his fresh innocence made in that stale atmosphere.
I’ve never forgotten that encounter and I often think about how that little boy demonstrated a few life lessons that we sometimes forget as we grow older. I’m convinced that our lives would be better by following his lead in three areas.
“Will you read this to me?”
Children aren’t shy about asking for what they need or want—sometimes even with strangers. As we grow older, we learn to hold back. Maybe our pride won’t let us ask for help, or we don’t want to bother people. Or we don’t trust others. When we operate in that mindset, we can end up feeling lonely, struggling with our needs not met. We may also deprive someone else of the blessing of helping us.
“Oh, what happened?’
Ever had someone ask how you were doing, but it was obvious they didn’t really want to know the truth? Maybe they were too hurried to take time to listen to what was really going on in your life. Or maybe hearing details about problems makes them uncomfortable.
On the other hand, have you ever been genuinely concerned about another person’s situation, but they just gave a pat answer when you asked about their welfare? While we do need to know when to be discreet, our hurts and problems seem smaller when we open up and share with a friend. Research shows that we heal faster physically and emotionally when we talk about our problems. It helps just to have a fellow human being to listen and say, “Ohhh…”
“Is that a giant spider up there?”
Remember when you were a child and you had time for things like gazing at clouds and imagining what the shapes were? Or pumping your swing as high as you could to feel the wind whip through your hair? We’re born with an active, playful imagination, but sometimes it gets stripped away by the rules and responsibilities of life. But research shows that taking time for play is healthy.
I believe that God designed us to meet each other’s needs, to share each other’s burdens and to use our imagination and the spark of creativity He put in us. So even though we’re all mature adults—more or less, I think we would do well to reclaim some aspects of our childhood. Like asking others for what we need, taking the time to notice when people around us are hurting and nurturing our imagination and sense of playfulness.
By the way, I had to go back to that bank the other day and do you know—that really does look like a giant spider up there.
Dianne Neal Matthews is a freelance writer and the author of four daily devotional books including The One Year Women of the Bible and Designed for Devotion, which won a 2013 Selah Award. She also writes for websites and blogs, contributes to compilations (including Guideposts’ Mornings with Jesus) and teaches at writers’ conferences. To learn more, visit www.DianneNealMatthews.com or connect with Dianne through Facebook or Twitter.