I spent my Fourth of July holiday weekend at The River in Michigan, with my huge family that I’m so lucky to be a part of. While I was surrounded by dozens of my cousins, aunts, and uncles, I spent a good portion of my time with my 5 year old second-cousin. He would climb into my hammock and lay there, waving to the kayakers as they floated down the river. He would drag me to the sandpile to play, to the tubes to play duck duck goose, and to the picnic tables to help him draw all over his tshirt. But my favorite was the evenings spent walking (or running) down Abbey Lane.
At The River, we pretty much do a lot of nothing. We eat (146 pounds of a roasted pig, that is), we tube/kayak down the river, we sit around the fire, we play some cards, we send rubber ducks on a race in the river, we nap, and we just..hang out. While it’s a great getaway, I find it difficult to do nothing, as I tend to run circles in my mind and get anxious. So, when my 5-year-old companion would come around, I would be more than willing to play.
One evening, as we wandered down Abbey Lane, and as I listened to him chatter, I realized the beauty and simplicity of his joy. He was so content walking down this dirt road beside me. He would just start giggling, and say “race you to that tree!”, but no matter who won, he was happy. We would come across a pile of pinecones, and he would get excited and start picking them up, going on and on about how wonderful pinecones are. He would talk about his dog, about spittle bugs, about everything. The simplest things made him smile, and a walk with me down a overgrown path made him the happiest little boy. I don’t even remember what we talked about half the time, but he never failed to spread a smile across my face.
Why can’t we all have this joy? It’s so easy to get wrapped up in worry, in anxiety, in doubt, that we don’t allow simple things like pinecones, dirt roads, and strangers in kayaks bring us the joy it brings children. Next time you feel wrapped up in whatever thoughts are running races in your head, go on a walk with a five year old state of mind (If you know a five year old to tag along, great, but by no means should you be taking walks with children you don’t know). Allow yourself to find the simple beauty in the sunrise, in the sunset, in the sun in the sky. Find joy in the flowers along the path, in the dragonfly that landed on your shoulder, in the dirt on the ground beneath your feet. Whatever you do, make sure you allow it to bring a smile to your face, just like it would a child.