I Brake for Wonder
That's my car slowing down to watch the gigantic orange moon creeping up on the horizon. Don't drive behind me if the sunset is too outrageously beautiful or if the fluffy white clouds dazzling the bluest sky are too incredible to ignore. Avoid walking with me if we happen to see a tiny infant so adorable and mysterious the sight stuns us to gasps. We must stop to look into the purple eyes of a magnificent Alaskan Husky or strain our eyeballs staring at the tall sunflower that just burst into bloom.
What stops you in your tracks to look, listen, smell, touch, taste or imagine and admire?
It used to be that our young children reminded us about wonder. The simplest sights and sounds dazzled them - a fuzzy caterpillar, birdsong, a strand of colorful ribbon dropped from a package, a little guppy swimming in a small fish tank, the turning pages of a book. The poet William Blake wrote, "To see a world in a grain of sand" - to stop, look, listen and feel amazement, to feel wonder. I'm sure many of our young children still help us keep wonder alive but it may be more of a challenge in this ever-changing, so complicated, technical world that enfolds so many of us in its web. Maybe the ability to wonder is in our DNA or our heritage. Is it hereditary? Who knows?
Many years ago, I was lucky enough to visit Florence, Italy, and its unbelievable treasures. Standing at Michelangelo's Wonder of the World statue of David, I took out my notebook to jot down the comments people made at the first sight of this beautiful marble creation. A family walked toward David with their son, about 10 or 11 years old. He stopped as if hit by lightning, stared at David, almost shaking, and called to his parents, "Does the world know about this?" The family stayed for at least 20 minutes, marveling at the statue. Soon after the family left, another family with a boy the same age came into the hall. As they approached David, the boy glanced at the statue and, as he walked away, muttered, "Is that all there is?"
Do we learn wonder from our families, from role models? Having no clear answers, the best idea is to rekindle our own responses. What amazes you? What slows down your car or stops you in your tracks? What interests you? Fascinates you? As our children watch us encounter numerous daily experiences, they also notice (everything) but especially how we react to people, places, things, nature, books - everything. Maybe some of our wonder can be catching. Just as our children learn compassion from our voices, actions, gestures, so they can share amazement with us - it's catching!
(Which of those boys would you want as your traveling companion?)
-"Mamaloshen" is the Yiddish term for "the mother tongue" and we have adapted it here to represent the wisdom of Columbus arts educator, author and all-around inspiration Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld, who is on a mission to help parents raise happy, healthy, creative children.