I looked across my classroom today with childlike wonder. My students were doing something difficult. But, they deftly added binary numbers with ease. Although the subject is advanced, they say it is “easy.” Their ability fills me with joy. A big part of that joy is my perspective — stepping back in childlike wonder and seeing my students perform, know, and create. Teaching is so exciting when I look at my job in childlike wonder realizing that I'm part of that accomplishment.
The age of our heart is young if a sunset can still take our breath away or a baby's cry can make our eyes sparkle and arms reach. If we can lick an ice cream cone slowly in enjoyment or breathe deeply in the spring to smell the jasmine, then perhaps we still have childlike wonder. Childlike is awesome. Childlike is young.
When someone has a childlike wonder about the world, they can still see things as if for the first time. Childlike excitement causes us to squeal in joy when we hook a fish or to take time to help a stray puppy find her owner.
Childlike is fine. Childish is not.
However, a deep chasm divides child-like and child-ish. A CEO can have childlike wonder as she speaks to her stockholders.
“What joy! I get to do this!,” she thinks in wonder.
Childish is when someone stomps out of a room when they don't get their way. Or when someone cannot take criticism. A childish person is immature in their reactions to the world, especially adversity.
Children and teenagers are pretty selfish. We expect that. But when a 45-year old is just as selfish as a 14-year old — that is sad. You'd like to think that over time people would appreciate others and want to serve them. And yet, immature, childish people of all ages are everywhere.
And yet, people full of childlike wonder are everywhere as well.
As we pursue excellence, consider the last time you felt childlike wonder. Have you taken the time to observe and notice the beauty of the world and others?
And also consider if you've acted childish in some way recently.
Have a conversation (like we did at the supper table tonight) with your family about the difference between childlike and childish and which belongs in the life of an excellent person.
What do you think?
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