My 7 year old grandson knows how to enjoy life’s simplest pleasures. His pure joy and wonder at all nature has to offer when we go for a neighborhood walk is infectious. His enthusiasm helps me see ordinary things in extraordinary ways.
A new home construction site around the corner displays how a foundation is laid. Just weeks ago an older, completely different house had been on this same dirt but Liam doesn’t miss the old, he is excited about the new. Bees buzz in and out of blooms next to stepping stones on landscaped paths, enticing us to follow. Down the street the sound of gurgling water calls us to discover a mini-waterfall at one end of a greenbelt. We stop at the grassy edge overlooking the creek, listening to a swirling, burbling language all its own.
When he was in kindergarten what he really wanted to do on our walks was crack the codes. Having mastered his letters and numbers he ran from house to house looking for codes on mailboxes or curbs. As soon as he saw the numbers he would call them out, excited about discovering each new set. I had never thought of street numbers as codes but he wasn’t wrong; the numbers are codes for first responders, mailmen, and work crews. Up and down each side of the street we went, Liam the Line Leader cracking the codes and having the time of his life.
Now that he is in 2nd grade he’s more into skipping rocks, throwing sticks to see how far he can throw, and running, lots of running. He runs ahead then back to walk a bit with Grandpa and Luke. Then he’s off to balance-walk the guardrail around the creek bend until the metal twists vertical and forces him off. A mailbox nested in a group of boxwoods makes him call out in surprise. He considers every type of flower, is expert at spotting roly-polys, and whenever we pass a certain large green plant he recounts the time he managed to sneak up on a lizard and touch its tail.
As we walk around the local high school practice field he pauses to watch a soccer game. Moving on he is fascinated by a large metal grate in a patch of grass, his first tentative step turning into a run when he realizes it’s safe to walk on. He hangs and swings from the field’s entrance sign then runs over to grab a street sign pole to spin round and round. He is all boy, all action, all the time. He keeps up a running commentary on everything he observes, and he observes everything.
Like most children Liam has cracked the codes on more than just mailboxes and curbs. He’s cracked the code on life. Keep a child-like faith in God and those who love you. See the wonder in nature. Consider the workings of construction equipment. Listen to a singing stream. Balance-walk on a ledge. Run with all your might when the coast is clear. Play to win but be prepared to be nice if you don’t. Use what you learn. Enjoy a bubble bath with sea creatures, old-school Looney Tunes cartoons, bedtime stories. Say your prayers. Embrace the new enthusiastically – reading a new book, playing a board game for the first time, tasting a new cookie recipe, the feel of a new soft pair of socks.
So next time you are ticked off by talking heads or frustrated by finances or have to go back to get your mask or worried what might be said at the Thanksgiving table or just feeling down, step outside and remember to crack the codes. It helps.