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Childlike wonder

If you are anything like me, you can get so involved in the mundane aspects of your life…of just getting through each day…that you forget the amazingness of life…the wonder…the awe…the magic that surrounds us at any given moment. This is why I love to work with kids. They are constantly discovering something amazing in this world that I have forgotten is amazing. They remind me of what it’s like to go through life with eyes wide with wonder, drinking in all that it has to offer. I appreciate these reminders, for they help me remember similar moments in my childhood.

As a child of missionary parents, I had many opportunities for amazing moments. By the time I was 18, I had lived in five countries on three continents, and traveled through more. All of my friends lived this way too, so I had no idea that I wasn’t normal. I do remember, though, that while on furlough I met many kids in the United States who had no idea what it was like to wonder…to be in awe of something…to be so overwhelmed by an experience that all you could do was feel. I thought that was sad, and was at a loss as to how to explain to them what my life was like.

I remember flying to Malawi and staring out the window…wondering how, exactly, I could be in the air when even feathers fell to Earth. I remember wondering, upon landing in Malawi, how there could be a place for the plane to land, and yet all around that place were worn footpaths in the red dirt because people walked instead of driving cars. I remember being taken to a retreat house on Lake Malawi with several other missionary families as soon as we cleared customs…not yet having seen my new house, and wondered at how other people thought that was ok. I remember being in awe that there was no electricity in the retreat house, and yet there was a refrigerator that worked all the time. I remember going to the bath house and finding a scorpion in the bathtub and wondering how it got there and if it would have died if I hadn’t killed it. I also wondered why it was ok for me to kill the scorpion, but it wasn’t ok for the scorpion to kill me. I remember hearing the morning wake-up call of the hippos in the lake below the retreat house and feeling the prickly feeling in the back of my neck. I remember sleeping out in the massive, screened veranda and knowing that all that was between me and elephants, leopards, hippos, crocodiles, snakes, and water buffalo was a thin mesh of screen. I remember watching the Fish Eagle dive into the lake, swooping back up without missing a beat, a fish in its talons. I remember catching my first Blue Swallowtail butterfly and staring at the luminescent, tiny blue feathers on the wings…wondering how something so fragile and delicate could exist in such a harsh environment. I remember the wonder at the ingenious creations the Malawians made from straw and wire…and wondered if I would ever be creative enough to imagine such a thing much less make it. I remember using a washing machine for the first time and being amazed at the brilliance of holes in the wash tub to drain the water…and even more amazement at the physics application of centrifugal force. I can’t tell you how many days I spent swinging a bucket full of water around my head…entranced by this law. I remember my first prism and the gasp of surprise I felt to discover a myriad of rainbows in my room. I remember holding my very first kitten…and my very first puppy…and feeling the joy and love they shared with me by purring or licking my face and snuggling up to me. I remember the race of adrenaline as I rode on the roof-rack of a friend’s car through a game park…dodging potholes that would swallow a car and plowing through muddy puddles with no clue of their depth. I remember the exhilarating feeling of racing schoolmates down the steep hill on my bike each morning…trying to be the first one to touch the school door. I remember the sensation of joy and freedom as I raced the person who was “it” to the tree home base when we played Hide and Seek. I remember the giggles that always came as the rain pelted the tin roof so loudly that no one could hear anything else. I remember the colors in the fire in the fireplace…the crack and snap of the wood…the spit-burst of flames as I sprayed the naartjie skin into the fire, and I wondered what made those things happen. I remember lying with a friend in a driveway as we looked through binoculars at Halley’s Comet…wondering how something so huge and violent was so far away from me and yet so visible. I remember going on furlough for the first time and feeling the stunned sensation of watching multiple lanes of traffic through the 12th floor hotel room window. I remember the gloriousness of the Christmas Market in Vienna, and the indescribable burst of flavor as I bit into the handmade chocolate from across the street. I remember seeing the Alps for the first time, and the meadows filled with wildflowers and discovering tears as I tried to absorb the beauty. I remember my first live classical concert and how I was mesmerized with such an odd collection of funny looking pieces of wood and metal…and how they could produce such amazing sounds. I remember the joy of returning to Malawi and being greeted by my best friends…knowing I was home. 

But most of all, I remember that moment when I stood in my hallway, tingling from head to toe in full awareness of my existence…of saying, in a choked up voice to no one in particular, “I’m really here…I’m really alive here…It really happened.”

I invite you today to find that place within yourself…that space of awe and wonder in the world around you…to discover the miracles that occur in every single breath life breathes. And most of all, I invite you to remember…you’re really here…you’re really alive here…it really happened.

And so it is.