Thursday, December 13, 2007

from the mouths of babes

I was pleased with a little story Mark Daniels used to start a blog he had written about Jesus that is apparently a convention in religious circles, although I had never heard it before. It goes like this:

“You may have heard the story of the little boy who was finding it hard to sleep at night. He called out from his room for his dad. When his father got there, the little guy said, “The longer I’m here, the darker and scarier it gets. Couldn’t you stay in here until I fall asleep?” “Son,” his dad explained, “nothing bad can happen to you here. Your Mom and I are right down the hall.” “I know, Daddy. But I’m scared.” “You don’t have any reason to be afraid,” the father explained, “God is right here in this room with you.” “I know, Daddy,” the little boy said, “but I want someone with skin on them.”

I wrote in the comment section that:

“I've never heard the 'skin' thing before. It's neat because it sounds like the kind of weird, oddly illuminating kind of thing young kids seem prone to say. Thanks for sharing that.”

And that is just the kind of thing a kid would say, even if it’s not true.

I had an English teacher who told us that some of the best story writers he has ever had in his classes were foreign kids who had just picked up the language. He said they were prone to coming up with unusual and beautiful analogies, metaphors, and spiced-up turns of phrase that the natives, on account of their familiarity with the language, could not. Kids don’t know any of the cliches either, and the novelty of the language and the unusualness of some of our linguistic blindsides attracts them.

My sons have filled my life with all kinds of linguistic mismatches that have been enriching. My wife and I now refer to any kind of construction type vehicle as ‘digs’ on account of my oldest son. One time we were walking across the Roebling Bridge here in Cincinnati, and he said about the humming sound the traffic makes on the steel grating that, “The bridge is singing to cars as they cross it.” He has also created a convention for himself by injecting ‘a bit’ into a lot of his sentences, ie, “Let’s take a break, I’m a bit tired”, or, “I had a bit of a lot of that sandwich.” There are many more instances.

It is as a child that we realize that bulldozers look like dinosaurs. It is also as children that we see the strange, sometimes scary faces in the grain on old faux-wood wall panels, and in rocks, and on wallpaper. It is this property that allows us to realize that clouds have secret characters, best discerned by laying on our backs in soft grass on a cool spring day and looking up.

I’m glad to have little people in my life for many reasons, one of which is that they keep things fresh. Their minds are still full of wonder, they are not yet jaded by the harshness of the way things can be, and they are capable of injecting some of this wonder and freshness back into our lives by their mere presence: It is by tapping into this secret reservoir of awe that we ever are able to make anything beautiful.

Three cheers for the kids.

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