Each Friday, we share three topical longreads in our Weekend Reader newsletter. This week, LionsRoar.com’s Lilly Greenblatt draws inspiration from the wonderful minds of children. Sign up here to receive the Weekend Reader in your inbox.
Throughout my teenage years, I spent my summers working as an assistant at a children’s art camp. Whether they were painting, drawing, doing pottery, or making collages, I was always amazed at the seemingly endless imaginations of the four-, five-, and six-year-olds I spent my days with. I recall one child painting a vibrant landscape in watercolor with lime green skies, purple grass, and hot pink mountains. Another sculpted a rabbit out of clay, adorning it with rainbow polka dots after its time in the kiln. They filled piles of sketchbooks with colorful drawings of fantastic things — pastel fairies, flying superheroes, make-believe animals, and maps of Atlantis-like lands. For those children, with a paintbrush, crayon, or marker in hand, there were no limits, and no mistakes. Truly anything was possible.
In adult life, things can feel a lot more limited. There are bills to pay, appointments to schedule, and taxes to file. It becomes difficult to imagine new possibilities, and there is rarely time for the play we likely need. Even if hot pink mountains seem silly and you have no time for pastel fairies, there’s still much to be learned from the imaginative minds of children. The three pieces in this Weekend Reader offer a deeper look into their sense of wonder and creativity. Adult responsibilities aside, I believe we can (and should) return to our childlike minds from time to time. Hopefully, these stories will remind you of your own.
—Lilly Greenblatt, assistant editor, LionsRoar.com
Playing With Buddha
The Buddha is with you,” his mother used to say. “Believe in him.” At age seven, Ira Sukrungruang believed that the Buddha was more than a bronze statue. The Buddha was his best friend.
He sat cross-legged on my bed, not in a meditating fashion, but how I sat when Mrs. S read to us. My Buddha did not speak sage advice. He adopted schoolyard lingo, and told me the kids at school were dork noses and that I was much better than they were. At night, Buddha eased me to sleep with his wild stories. “One time,” he’d begin, and the tale would take off in bizarre and outrageous directions, always ending with a hero who stood tall and was not afraid to take on the world. We played rock, paper, scissors, and Buddha was always shocked when I beat him. Then when the darkest part of the night came, he hovered above me and I could feel the heat of his presence. His skin glowed, like a night-light.
“When you hold hands, you have to hold hands with your whole body. And when you say ‘thank you,’ you have to say it with your whole body.”
There it is. My 4-year-old son has just come close, in his little way, to summing up my total understanding of spiritual practice. And why should I be surprised? If I imagine myself trying to lift a car off of a baby, I know I still wouldn’t use as much of myself as he does just when he cries. Everything he does is total. Even sleep, for him, is an unrestrained act of plunging into something. It’s a complete investment of himself.
Is Nothing Something?
Thich Nhat Hanh answers children’s questions.
Q: Why do I sometimes feel lonely and that no one loves me?
Sometimes the people around you are distracted and may forget to express their love. But if you feel like no one loves you, you can always look outside at the natural world. Do you see a tree out there? That tree loves you. It offers its beauty and freshness to you and gives you oxygen so you can breathe. The Earth loves you, offering you fresh water and delicious fruit for you to eat. The world expresses its love in many ways, not just with words.