It is with considerable trepidation that I write about my granddaughter. Certainly it is not that she embarrasses me. To the contrary, I am very proud of her. That is one of the roles of grandparents, as I have learned from others. Of course, she is cute, smart, and about the most amazing young kid of this century! And of course, that is totally biased and ungrounded, but that is my prejudice.
Actually writing about my grandkid is something like pulling out too many photos of her and subjecting a friend with more photos than the one picture he or she probably is willing to look at. I know it takes longer to read this than it would take to look at one picture and say something like, “that’s nice!”
I have begun to realize that my granddaughter is becoming my teacher. That is probably not surprising to Christians and other faithful people who actually know their Bible and have a deep sense of the spiritual life. Jesus was pretty clear about the role and function of kids. Maybe I learned these lessons with my own kids, but obviously I have forgotten them. But maybe our own kids are not the same kind of teachers as grandkids become. It’s probably not the kid. More likely is the fact that I am getting old enough to learn something! At least, that is my hope!
So what is my granddaughter teaching me? My easy answer is she is teaching me nothing special and, yet, she is teaching me everything. Let me be specific. Here is what she is teaching me. Be simple. Be curious. Be alert and pay attention. And finally, have fun. Let’s look at each one of these four lessons and see how spiritual and meaningful they are. If I can learn and practice these, I am going to grow spiritually. And probably you will grow, too.
I like the first one: be simple. It doubtlessly strikes many folks as immature or even un-American! After all, if we are smart and successful, life should be busy, complex, very demanding. These kinds of people would likely find the charge to be simple as stupid. Simplicity gets confused with boring. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I equate simplicity with clarity of vision and purpose. Simplicity means I have some focus. Spiritually speaking, I know my center and live life from this center. Simplicity means that I can be active, but not frazzled. If I can stay centered, life can even deliver curve balls and usually make people crazy…and somehow we manage just fine. If I am simple, it is easy to have enough---enough of everything I need. And in this case, no need to go stupidly chasing things I don’t need.
My granddaughter’s second lesson is to be curious. She really has that one down! I am willing to bet that curiosity is the key to learning, growing, and excelling. I would like to be excellent in discovering and following my spiritual path. That is the only “A” I now would like to receive. I won’t get a transcript with grades, but my life becomes my transcript. If I make the grade, I will know a great deal about the Divine One and I will have rich experiences of that Holy One. Because so much of the spiritual journey is a journey into Mystery, I need curiosity to fuel the quest.
Her third lesson sounds spiritual. In fact, it makes me think she is a budding Buddhist! Be alert and pay attention. Thich Nhat Hanh or any of the other Buddhists I read could not have said it more clearly. Be alert. Don’t daydream spiritually speaking. Don’t go to sleep and don’t sleepwalk through life. Life is happening, whether or not you are alert to it. And pay attention. There is profundity and serendipity happening all around you. God is present for those who can “see.” God is love…so don’t miss out on this great gift. My granddaughter does not even need words to tell me all this. I just watch her and know. And I know I can do the same thing.
Finally, this is my granddaughter at her best: have fun! Maybe kids start off being wise---they are little sages. And then we put them in school to get smart and gain knowledge. Nothing wrong with that. But I think the spiritual journey is more about wisdom and less about knowledge. In fact, I suspect one cannot be wise without being spiritual. Have fun.
I have known too many people who think that you can’t possibly have fun if you are spiritual. In fact, it is as if you should have fun in life and, then, when you get old (and if you have to), you get spiritual. Hence this counsel would be to have fun as long as you can. Then when you get sick or are about to die, then become spiritual. Such a view, I believe, has a warped sense of what fun is and, certainly, what being spiritual means.
I look at my granddaughter. She has fun. She likes people and likes being with people. She likes being outside and enjoying nature. She laughs a great deal. She smiles easily. She appreciates routine and revels in surprises. She is amazingly open to new things and, yet, holds on to the good friends of her past, i.e. Pooh Bear! This is sage advice. I suspect Jesus would have told me pretty similar stuff. If I do this, I am going to have some fun.
Thanks kid for the spiritual lesson.