We saw the toddler boy with his parents waiting to board a tour of Mayan ruins in Mexico. That’s not normally where you’d take a toddler on vacation, but he was too little to care. Besides, it was his parent’s vacation.
The toddler was clinging to his parents, no one else. The mother even told a well-meaning worker trying to help them off the bus that he never, ever went to strangers.
Two hours later, standing a distance from the Chichen Izu ruins, the toddler pitter patted away from his parents right up to my wife, Janet. He looked up at her and held up his arms to be picked up.
She simply said, “Awe”, reached down and scooped him up in her arms. The little boy looked at her closely, then laid his head on her shoulder in peaceful contentment.
The parents were amazed, and then apologized repeatedly. They tried to take him, but neither the toddler nor Janet would have it. For the next fifteen minutes, she carried him around the hot Mexican historical site while his mother walked beside them pushing an empty stroller. All three were completely content and relaxed.
It’s fascinating! Kids just sense it. They know. I tried to get the little boy to simply smile at me while Janet carried him. The little snot just frowned! He turned his head and buried it in Janet’s other shoulder. Makes sense. I can’t even get the family pet to come to me without hesitating and ducking its head!
This is not a new thing to witness with Janet. Kids run to her. Maybe it’s because she taught school for years, yet I know teachers who don’t have kids running up to them. Janet does. Kids of all ages, from thirty plus years ago to toddlers now, they boldly approach her without fear or trepidation. It’s like they have a natural radar to see and recognize peace, safety and acceptance.
The first time I saw it was at a County Fair. A group of girls, who were all, or had been, in Janet’s classroom, came running up to her out of the blue. Each wanted a hug. Each wanted to show her their projects. Each wanted to be acknowledged. Each wanted to feel special. Each received it.
Once a little girl, a stranger, was staring at Janet as we walked down the sidewalk outside a restaurant. When they crossed paths, the little girl reached up and grabbed Janet’s hand. She stopped, knelt down and looked at the little girl with braided pigtails and wide eyes. The little girl told Janet, “You’re pretty!” Just a quick observation and the little girl got it! She knew. She understood. It’s amazing, really.
Children understand good. They sense approachable. They recognize acceptance. They feel safety. They know love.
We adults can learn, or maybe just stop and remember, a lot from kids. We would do well to sharpen that sixth sense that children seem to have.
But what happened to ours? Did we outgrow it? Forget or lose it? Did our edges dull over time from scrapes, cuts and gashes in the heart? Or, did we just concrete stranger danger in our head so it overrules the heart?
In some ways, I wonder if we should make the outer adult step aside, so the little kid inside can run free again.
We adults tend to turn a simple 2 + 2 into a complicated algebra problem, yet most things in life aren’t really that complicated. Complicated things are usually just simple things bundled together, with an x and y thrown in.
In fact, I wonder if that’s what childlike faith is — the ability to see good, right and pure, without adding an x or y.
Maybe that’s why children boldly approach Janet and other genuinely kind people like her. Maybe it’s also why children can so easily love unconditionally…and why their teddy bears lose eyes and get fur rubbed off from all the hugs.
And you know, God Himself wants us to approach Him like that too. He wants us to come to Him, in childlike faith, and boldy approach His throne without hesitation or reservation. He wants us to hold up our arms so He can carry us when we need it, to unconditionally love Him, and then love others as ourselves.
In essence, it’s simple. He wants a heart like a child’s! There’s wisdom in that approach. Deep wisdom!