Children can be teachers, too

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Gather round folks. Read closely. What follows may be of some use to you.

All of us should consider being more childlike.

A friend, speaking to a civic club years ago, made that point with emphasis. It made sense then. It still does today.

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The key, he said, is knowing there is a difference between being childish and childlike. And the real trick, for we serious adults, is realizing that while we have family responsibilities, financial worries and job requirements, we can return to a childlike state simply by remembering the spontaneous appreciation of the world and everyone in it.

Taking time to smell the roses, I believe we call it.

Learn how by paying closer attention to our children and their wide-eyed and honest evaluations of life as they see it.

Mythology has it that there is somewhere on earth a magic fountain whose waters will restore our youth. But if you're searching for your lost youth in a drink of water, in a jogging suit or in anything else external, you're probably wasting your time.

Instead, by simply letting yourself be a child again you can tap a boundless fountain of youth within yourself.

Drawing from the writings of Dr. Wayne Dyer, my friend discovered five paths to rediscovering that fountain. See if they make sense to you.

The child in you loves to laugh. Sometimes a kid will laugh at nothing at all, just out of sheer joy. If you're running low on laughter, try taking yourself less seriously. Recall experiences from your childhood that were miserable then, but worth a laugh now. And laugh them off.

Children love to dream, to fantasize, to use their imaginations. So would you if you'd let yourself. Make a list of 20 things you've dreamed of doing, whether it's running a marathon, being on television or visiting China.

Cross out the fantasies that seem impossible to achieve immediately. You still will likely have at least one dream you can realize today. Do it. Then begin planning for the next most practical item on the list and soon, you'll realize many of those childlike ideas have become solid, meaningful achievements.

The child in you cries out to be impulsive and adventurous, yet spontaneity is one of the earliest things for grown-ups to squelch in themselves and their children.

By constantly reminding children to be careful and to stick to the beaten path, we may well be instilling fear of the unknown or dousing their natural curiosity about life.

Maybe that applies to us, too. So the next time a friend or spouse suggests doing something on the spur of the moment, say &#8220I can” before the words &#8220I can't” automatically and conditionally leak out.

Children accept things as they are and that acceptance is important. When an infant enters the world, he or she has no thought the world should be any different than it appears, but as the child develops, he or she learns to control certain things. That's where the trouble begins.

A child, for instance, sees a snowstorm as a chance to revel, to enjoy. Adults, however, get upset because of the interruption of plans, ignoring the fact that no matter how angry they get, the snowstorm is not going to vacuum itself back into the sky.

Finally, the child in you trusts whereas the adult in you sometimes does not. Observe small children meeting for the first time. They may start shyly, but more often than not they'll become friends quickly because, instinctively, they trust each other. Oftentimes, they even hold hands.

If your reaction is typically cool toward new acquaintances, your trusting, childlike instincts have probably eroded. Go out of your way this week to meet at least one new person who is quite different from you. Learn what you can about that person. Chances are, you'll learn something about yourself, too.

Think about it.

Travel the paths that enable you to find that lost child in you. Let yourself recapture that childlike essence and enjoy the days ahead with a spirit that is forever young at heart.

We can and should learn from our children.

Ed Darling is president and publisher of Greenville Newspapers LLC. He can be reached at 382-3111 or