A wise, beautiful lady once told me that celebrating even the most mundane or seemingly insignificant moment brings joy. It is not as easy as it sounds. Feeling awe in the majesty of the mountains, in the turquoise water of the rolling stream after the hurricane, in the colors of nature, uplifts and fulfills me, but feeling that awe for my own growth had long eluded me. And so, as always, I read books. The more I read, the more I experienced, and the more I understood.
When I find meaning in a concept and make it my own in my personal set of "ethics," my first instinct is to share it with children. How could I help a child to celebrate every moment of every day as a personal triumph on the path of life? The answer was so simple that it laughed out of the eyes of the toddlers exploring the playground. They marveled at how the sand ran down the slide, how the dog stopped to pee on everything in its way, and how the the wheels on the tricycle kept going around even when it was upside-down in the grass. One little boy, on all fours, was sniffing merrily around the swings following the tiny Teacup Chihuahua. The snail crawling up the wall was ogled by every child within hearing distance of the cries of joy at finding such a treasure. And when the pigtailed redhead approached me with her curious eyes, her trusting hand touching my knee, she held out a plain, grey, jagged rock. In my eyes, it was just like any other rock in the playground, nothing special, until her eyes met mine and she said, "Se siente como la barba de mi papá." It feels like my Dad´s beard. What could I possibly teach this wide-eyed child?
My mind racing, I took the rock in my hand and I replied to her expectant gaze,"Esta piedra huele como la cueva donde visité a los murciélogos." This rock smells like the cave I visited that was filled with bats. She held my gaze for only a moment, taking in my words, then collected her rock from my palm and walked away. As I followed her movements, I was delighted to see her raise the rock up to her nose and sniff. I was reminded of how precious it is to respect the curiosity of children and to continue to learn from it.
I have since begun to celebrate each small triumph which has lead me to understand that joy exists when we live in the moment. I do this for my own joy, but equally important, I do this to model the celebration of life to the children around me. And when I forget to celebrate, I look only into the eyes of a small child, eyes not yet darkened by cynicism, and I am alive.
Teaching is not a synonym for correcting. It is a synonym for modeling, celebrating, and guiding. We are all teachers. We are all here to learn from one another. Celebrate yourself, your triumphs, and your failures, and you will, perhaps unknowingly, become a hero in the eyes of a child.