“Children make you want
to start life over.”
– Muhammad Ali
“An honest man is always a child.”
Nine years-old. It’s such an endearing age.
Currently, I’m working on a short-term project reviewing anonymous answers written by nine year-olds. I have no idea whether individual responses are from girls or from boys. Couldn’t tell you anything particularly identifying about any of them, even if I wanted to, except what state they live in. Still… I’m sworn by the employer not to reveal any details – due to endless privacy laws that seem to be everywhere these days – and can’t be specific about a jot I’m reading.
No “kids say the darndest things.”
No examples of sweetness and humor and creativity that would bring such a smile to your face it would light in your heart like a butterfly.
This is torture for a writer. Especially for one who loves to write for this exact age group.
Yet… I’ve been musing on what I might be able to tell you…to give you a flavor…and still comply with the (albeit nutsy) absolutely-no-revelation rule.
And here’s what’s been burning on my heart all week that I think I can share:
I love these kids.
I have no sweet faces or childish voices to go with their written words, but I can see and hear them beside me as I read. I find the Holy Spirit whispering to me to pray for a few of them. Others, I bless with a silent “you’re awesome, kid!” Still others bless me with their untainted hearts and pure expressions.
And I wish… oh, that we could stay innocent and loving and honest as they!
Some can take a simple question and tell you a whole story, even morphing into chit chat about their own lives that has nothing really to do with the question…but reveals a loving heart, a creative flair, an ability to laugh and make others laugh with their open silliness. These are strictly just words, for the most part…but every once in awhile there’s the budding artist who can’t resist doodling a little drawing to illustrate their thoughts (and one who actually signed her name beneath it – oops!). I can accomplish my task sometimes by only reading a sentence or two… but when I see where the child is going with telling me about something of their own hearts and lives, I just have to read it through.
And as I read, children of my own nine year-old days come before me, misting my eyes as they seem to be right there again…
In the child whose writing is round and easy to read, every letter “i” flourished with a happy tiny heart for its dot, I can once again hear Kathleen Quinn laughing – and see her impishly grinning up at me from her paper of similarly unique penmanship touches…
Or in the one and only one I come across who has written answers in pretty cursive, I can almost see Terri Levy’s beautifully-executed handwriting… and I see myself, spending hours every night – head and nose nearly down on my paper – almost drawing my letters until I thought they were as lovely and perfect as hers. How I loved her writing!
In the child who is obviously making up a response geared to make the reader laugh out loud at its purposely ridiculous impossibility (oh, how I wish I could tell you exactly what they wrote! 🙂 ) – I can hear Janet Mattochs explaining to our teacher just why she was so – um, entertaining – in her ever-clowning but always clever responses, while the rest of us stifled our giggles, hands over mouths: “Well, I’m planning to be a comedian, Mr –, and I have to practice somewhere!”
There are the kids who so misunderstand the question in their hurry to read it through that their answers are incomplete. Yet…they took such pains to tell their story, told you something personal of their own feelings, that it can make you go, awwhhhh!
““Somebody needs to clarify these questions and how they are written!” the guy next to me bemoans, even as he chuckles at a common and funny misinterpretation. “I hate having to mark one down as wrong when these kids are SO cute!”
Oh, me too… I think. For even when they’ve totally missed the direction, there is still something there that is filled with such awareness…such twinkle…I hate to damp it out, even though they will never see it.
And then there are those I just know are destined to be novelists and playwrights, lyricists or writers who encourage. What a delight! I can see it there in their inventive phrasing… (again, I wish I could give you some fantastic examples! They blow me away with the understanding and use of metaphor, coming at such a young age… especially when I see those at completely the other end of the spectrum who are satisfied to answer with barely two or three words.)
In each one, scrawled or written beautifully, I can see their personalities.
There are the logical ones who are sharp and to the point, no word wasted!
Others who are so talkative I can almost see their hands and fingers flitting about them like fireflies as they go on to enthusiastically confide a little extra of their own thoughts…compelled by a need to… tell… their… story.
The class clowns who love to take a chance and make anyone laugh…even if it backfires with a wrong answer.
Some who are literal, almost analytical.
Others who are bursting to overflow with creativity.
And, I think…
We need them ALL.
I fancy I can even tell which ones are happy-go-lucky, and which ones stressed or lonely. It’s there in their penmanship, in their words, in their style.
Bless and keep these kids, Lord, I pray as I read. And…renew their childlike heart-view in us who think we are so grown up… Turn our hearts back to when we knew how to trust, to wonder, to explore, to learn with exuberance.
For, in their words I see hearts that care about animals, people, all of life. I see budding blooms with a fragrance that could refresh this world.
© Pam Depoyan
Reading the words of these children, I’ve been remembering some of what I enjoyed about being nine. What I loved about my dog. How I felt. Books I loved to read. It seems to be an age on the brink before we begin to know it all… And so I thought of posing this question here (I may do another post to give my own answer) :
If you could be a kid again for a day, how would you spend that day?
Note: I don’t mean going back to your childhood that was. Instead, this would be a brand new day – with no mistakes in it (yet). A redeemed day. If you could be a child just for today, retaining the blessings of who you have become along the way and now know – and could do anything you chose -what would you especially love to do? What age would you be?
“A child reminds us that playtime is an
essential part of our daily routine.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
“…let their flesh be renewed like a child’s; let them be restored as in the days of their youth.” – Job 33:24-26
“The pursuit of truth and beauty is a
sphere of activity in which we are
permitted to remain children
all our lives.”
– Albert Einstein