During a meal at a local restaurant last week I overheard the conversation between a spunky young girl and her parents. Her curiosity meter was glowing bright green, and her eyes fixed themselves on me. With hardly a moment to breathe she rapidly shot out questions to her parents about my wheelchair/sports car. The parents patiently worked at answering each inquiry the best they could. Their challenge was to help their daughter to understand my challenge, knowing how important it was to respond to their daughter’s inquiring spirit. I applauded their efforts inside my soul.
My mind jetted off to an experience, unlike my present one. It took place in the mall, a number of years earlier. A young wide eyed girl raced towards me with curiosity fueling every step. As she eagerly made her way she yelled, “Oh look mama, there’s a crippled clown!!!” I wear colorful high top shoes to support my ankles, and they seem to be a child magnet. One can only imagine how her circus big top observation grabbed my funny bone and shook it. I laughed uncontrollably, and prepared myself for her out stretched arms. There was no doubt in my mind she had plenty of questions, and I know my laughter was like a welcome mat to her. But, just before reaching me, her mother swept her up and spanked her. The light in the child’s eyes quickly dimmed, and I watched as the mother stole her daughter’s precious wonderment.
As they faded into a crowd, my heart grew heavy. The message to stay away from “crippled clowns,” or from those a bit different, was sent to that child, and more than likely, it would take root. A spoonful of fear was given, rather than a heaping dose of valued knowing and understanding. As a child I loved to explore beyond my little world. Like most, I was fearless, inquisitive, and had a desire to know all that hid around the next corner. What was beyond the BIG doors of THE other church? Where would the road, we never traveled, take me? When I hugged a black kid, would the black rub off? What did it feel like to be old? What was hidden under the nun’s habit? The list never ended, and my parents were mindful enough to encourage me to question. Differences did not have to be fearful, unless woven with ignorance.
Soon, my mind returned to the restaurant. I asked the mother at the table next to us if I could talk with her daughter. Her mother gifted her child by saying, yes. In a flash the girl jumped up with a smile, and with grace and ease our exchange of questions and answers flowed like a well choreographed dance. The brilliant light in her eyes spoke of the thrill to learn, to know, and to understand. Her parents and I fed her curiosity, and she delighted in it.
Our world is filled with differences, and children innately yearn to explore beyond the life they know. Let us all be mindful to seed the wonderment, and starve the fear. The vaccine to the epidemic of fear is knowledge. Help vaccinate the younger generation, so they can dream bigger, and go farther. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it thrills the kid.
“Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.”