Innocent, naïve, pure... these are all words that describe young children. There is so much they don't understand. They have so much to learn.
But there is so much beauty in the innocence of a child. Being naïve can be a precious thing. And the pure heart and spirit of a child is something that is impossible to regain once it is lost. To be able to see the world through the eyes of a child again... what would that look like?
On Saturday, I babysat three kids from Texas who's parents were in town for a wedding. We were hanging out in a fancy hotel in downtown Portland, but needed to get out of the small room for a while. So we ventured out onto the streets of this eclectic city. I held 10-month old Peter on my hip and grabbed the hands of 3-year-old William and 5-year-old Ruthie and emphasized the importance of staying close together.
We stood on a corner near Pioneer Square and waited for the "walking man" to replace the "stopping hand" so we could cross the street. We visited the walrus statues they saw earlier that day and liked playing with. An older woman was near the walruses and struck up a conversation with the two older children. She started singing a few songs to them that she used to sing to her children. She apologized for not remembering some of the verses (she admitted that she had just come from the Oregon Brew Fest on the waterfront). After each of the songs, the kids would laugh and clap for her lively performance.
We decided to keep walking and little Ruthie lead us down the street saying, "Come with me - I want to show you something." We waited for several of the walking men to allow us to cross a few more streets, always looking both ways and holding hands through the crowd of pedestrians. Ruthie stopped on a corner where a man was sitting on a bucket playing a bucket drum set. "Look!" she exclaimed. "Is this what you wanted to show me?" I asked. Ruthie smiled and nodded as she joyfully watched the dirty man who was banging out a loud beat.
We stood and enjoyed the music until the kids were distracted by a man and his dog walking by. "Excuse me - may I pet your dog?" Ruthie asked. The man with dreadlocks smiled and said, "of course." He introduced the kids to his dog, Toby, and they laughed and played with Toby and then thanked the owner who continued on his way.
We pet at least 4 other dogs on our outing. Ruthie politely asked each owner, "Excuse me - may I pet your dog?" William would jump in to play as well, and they would both said "Thank you!" after playing with the dog for a minute.
We walked back into the hotel lobby, where Ruthie excitedly told the bell hop that we were having pizza for dinner tonight. He told her that he had pizza for lunch today and hoped our dinner was yummy. The kids were fully energized by the outing, and my arm about to fall off from hold baby Peter for so long.
What a wonderful (and slightly terrifying) outing in downtown Portland with three young children. The contrast between these adorable kids from Texas with matching monogrammed pink and navy outfits and the grungy Portlanders was drastic. I kept thinking, "I wish someone was videoing this, or that I had someone with me to witness this experience."
Through my eyes, these encounters were not normal. You don't just strike up a conversation with people on the street that you don't know. People from a higher social group don't interact with people who aren't "equal" to them; much less ask for a favor from them such as petting their dog. And taking time to recognize the talents and joys of people around us, such as the guy playing drums on a street corner, is something we normally miss.
It was beautiful to see these innocent, naïve, pure children interact with people that society would tell them they shouldn't interact with. They haven't yet learned that yet. And it breaks my heart that this is what they'll learn as they grow older and less innocent.
Jesus said that we are to receive the kingdom of God like a child... we are to see God's creation and His people through the eyes of children.
I believe that children are close to God's heart because they have not yet been corrupted or conformed to the ways of this world that we live in. They naturally see people as God would see them. And what a beautiful sight that must be!