Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Big Lessons from a Little Teacher

Being a Dad is probably the coolest thing I’ve ever gotten to do. Every day my little girl surprises me with what she knows, or makes me laugh by being silly. Every day she learns something new about herself and the world around her. How it works, how it functions, who people are, that she’ll get Daddy to jump up and down clapping by saying “B-B-B-Bennie Jets.”

But as she grows and learns, I also continue to grow and to learn. I’ve heard over and over that our faith ought to be like that of a child. Throughout my life, I have to admit that I’ve rarely given thought to what that meant or what it might actually look like. But as I’ve seen how she perceives the world, I’m learning what that’s really all about.

She still lives in the world of complete trust, of unjaded and uninhibited pure love. A world where she’s free to sing and dance and play to her heart’s content. She lives in a world where a stranger is just another tall baby she can say “Hi” to. There’s no suspicion, there’s no hate, there’s nothing but joy in learning that when you say hi to someone, they can’t help but smile and wave back. I cannot count the number of smiles that she has brought to the faces of old ladies in church, or strangers at the grocery store. She truly is still nothing but pure light and joy to others. (Except those who wanted a quiet meal at the Worthington Ground Round…)

As I watch her grow, and interact with the world, I can’t help but wonder when we lose that ability. When do we stop bringing joy to people’s faces at the mere sight of a wave? Yet I’m also struck by the thought that maybe we don’t have to lose that. There’s many times when someone says hello to you and it makes you smile. Or you get a call from a friend or a family member, and it makes your day. Perhaps we all could act a little more like a child in that respect. Being willing to say hello to anyone (and I really mean anyone) and making sure we wave back.

But the lessons my daughter teaches me go far beyond the hello. Before each meal, we pray. But instead of the normal grace prayers, we decided that we wanted to put it in words she could begin to understand. “Bless us O Lord with these thy gifts… or Be present at our table Lord…” or any of the others you can think of just weren’t going to cut it. So it has become “Dear God, Thank you for noodles, and puppy, and forks. Amen.” This went on for a couple of weeks. We’d sit down to pray, and thank God for 3 or 4 things we could see that we knew she could name. Thanks for milk, napkins, sunshine, and high chairs were a regular occurrence. She seemed to enjoy us listing off random things that she knew. After we’d pray, she’d take a couple of bites and then ask to pray again. So we’d name more things.  We’d pray 4 of 5 times a meal. Then something really great started to happen. All of a sudden she wanted to pray at other times during the day. So we’d do the same thing. “Dear God, thank you for books, and toys, and cribs. Amen”

I figured this prayer thing had sort of become a “let’s see what 3 things mommy and daddy says this time” game to her. And then something amazing happened.

“Mommy, Pray.”
“Dear God, Thank you for spoons, and puppies, and chips. Amen”
“and Daddy, Amen. and Mommy, Amen.”
With that, she picked up her fork and started to eat.

I wish I could say that prayer permeated my life the way it does hers. And I wish I could say that my prayers were as simple, uninhibited, full of love, and gratitude as hers.

Boy the huge lessons a little one will teach.

For her. Amen.  

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