Potholes and Tide Pools

Today we finished our school lessons early in the morning, so we were delighted to hear the raindrops begin outside our window. It would be a perfect day for a stroll in the rain.

The house that we purchased earlier this year is on a quiet street, in a quiet neighborhood, in a peaceful part of town. It also happens to be across the street from my parents – from the house that I grew up in. So, while it is rare to see a car drive past, the chances of it being a family member or friend are great. And we are enjoying every minute of it.

But back to the rain..

The kids and I have decided that nature walks are going to be a large part of our routine in the coming year. So today seemed like a perfect opportunity to jump in some puddles and feel the rain on our cheeks. We quickly threw on raincoats with our mostly bare feet because it is, after all, August in Oklahoma.  And we set off for a mini adventure in the rain.

Halfway down the street, we did what most folks would do in this situation. We got bored quickly, complained a little, and decided that our cozy house was more appealing.  So we headed back home.. until the five year old spotted the pothole.

This pothole is the same pothole we pass every single time we leave our house, every time we go visit Nana and Pop, and every time we go on our regular nature walks.

Except that this time it was filled with rainwater.

This time it looked completely different to the ones with the mystical ability to see beauty in potholes.

Most people reading this are probably familiar with the state of Oklahoma’s roads. Not to brag too much, but we are kind of famous for them. We complain about them to other Oklahomans, and curse the days that our coffee spills in our laps as we drive on them. The conditions of our roads have been terrible for years, and with the current infrastructure budget, I see no hope for change in the near future.

However, my five year old doesn’t seem to mind today. Her face lit up with wonder this morning as she discovered a tiny ecosystem that  existed in a pothole at the end our driveway.

She immediately called it a tide pool. She’s never seen an actual tide pool. But I don’t think her analysis was too far off.

We even found some nearby moss to add to our tide pool as “coral” and “seaweed”.

Over the last few days, I’ve been talking to my kids about the phrase, “the grass is greener on the other side” in hopes that it would cultivate in them an awareness of the many blessings we already have.

Today, however, after a long time of joyful play in a pothole at the end of my driveway, my kids weren’t the only ones who came away more aware of their blessings.

Yeats may have said it best:

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

Foreign Policy from a Five Year Old

Last night during the girls’ bath time, I became unusually emotional. As I watched them play and laugh, with full bellies and warm pj’s awaiting them, I thought about their safety. And their comfort. And then I thought about how how fortunate they are.. that many children all over the world haven’t had a warm bath or a hot meal today. And still won’t tomorrow.

And then I became conflicted. Should I tell my ‘littles’ about the horror that is every day life for so many Syrians? After all, one of my jobs as their parent is to protect and shield their young years from the pain of this world.

They will learn it on their own–soon enough.

But then I had flashes of the faces I’ve been looking at on the internet for days on end. The beautiful little girls who are my daughters’ ages. The ones who should never have to know loss, fear, hunger and death. Why them?

They didn’t ask to be born into Syria any more than my girls asked to be born American. We don’t get a choice in this world on things like nationality or skin color, or whether our government can protect us from terrorists.

So I started to explain to my five year old, in the best way I knew how, about what is going on in Syria today.

I told her about ISIL. The bad guys.
And what the word ‘refugee’ means.
I told her that people are getting on boats in cold weather, with small children and newborn babies, and hoping that surrounding countries will let them in to be safe. I told her that some boats have turned over and people drowned.

And then I waited to hear her thoughts.

Over and over again, my little Emma just said, “This is horrible. Really horrible.”
Then came her advice.
“Someone needs to help these people.”
“We have to help them.”

So I tried to explain to her why many countries aren’t letting them in. I told her all the arguments I could think of, including “limited resources”, “it’s not our responsibility”, “what if they come over and someone from ISIL sneaks in with them..”

Her responses to these questions were profound.

Me: “Limited resources? Housing, food, water, etc.”
Emma: “We need to learn how to share better.”
Me: “It’s not our responsibility. They aren’t Americans”
Emma: (confused look)
It’s like she couldn’t wrap her mind around that one.
And then lastly,
Me: “When the refugees come over, the bad guys might come over here too, and they could hurt us.” (Try explaining the word ‘infiltrate’ to a five year old)
Emma: “I don’t know, mom. I don’t know what to do. But it’s not those people in the boats fault. The kids aren’t the bad guys. Someone has to help them.”

Now, I know this is a gross oversimplification on the whole situation. So please don’t email or comment that here.
This is a child’s interpretation. Of course it is oversimplified. To adults.
But it’s not oversimplified to children.

“Someone has to help them.

Matthew 18:1-5
Jesus saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me..”