Some years ago, our then-three-year-old granddaughter spent the night with us, and in the morning, we took her to a parade, her very first. Grandpa and I set out some rules of behavior as we parked the car.
1. Hold hands until we get to the right spot.
2. You may sit in the street.
3. If anyone throws anything at you, you may keep it.
Wide-eyed, she silently climbed out of her car seat, unsure what to expect. Holding hands in public was standard protocol, but I’m pretty sure her parents never told her to sit in the street, anywhere, any time.
We wound our way through the crowds to a good location alongside the street. Still not questioning, she sat on the curb, her bare knees visibly trembling under her tutu (because what else would she wear to a parade?).
Twenty minutes later, she turned to me with shining eyes, her hands full of candy tossed by waving people on the passing parade floats. “Grandma! You said people would throw stuff at me. I didn’t know I’d LIKE it!”
I’ve often thought about that morning; how trusting was that little girl, having no concept of what the word “parade” meant, but knowing if her beloved Grandma and Grandpa felt confident taking her there, it must be alright. In her day-to-day life, no one threw anything at her, and she’d been repeatedly warned not to even go near a street...yet she relied on us to keep her safe.
I cut out a comic strip years ago, and taped it inside my journal. Two old guys sat on a park bench. One says, “I don’t mind life passing me by, but I wish it wouldn’t throw things at me on its way past.” I feel like that some days. I wake in the morning confident, with a mental list of things to accomplish in the day. I lie down at night, and review the day. Some days, I actually do what I set out to accomplish, or close to it, while other days, I’m like the guys on the park bench, ducking as life throws things at me.
I think it has to do with expectations. We need to be strong and focused, but if life throws a need or a serendipity experience at us, we need to be flexible enough to seize it, not trapped by our Must Do list. Or as my friend says, “we must remember that we are human beings, not human doings.” And you can’t go wrong mustering the faith, trust and joy of a child.