My wife and I took a trip with our three children to visit family and friends over the weekend. During the weekend we ventured out to a local arboretum. It was a crisp autumn day to say the least, and one which deserved a warm pumpkin latte in order fully embrace its fall-ness! There is much that can be said about the beauty which we experienced during our little outing, but my favorite part of the trip was the lesson I learned from watching my daughter, Ellie, who is just under 2. As we were walking through the children’s area, we stumbled upon a water feature with frog fountains spitting chilly water out of their mouths. Up until this point in our adventure, Ellie struggled to keep her toddler attention span on anything for more than about three seconds. This fountain was the exception. To make a long story shorter, I will just say Ellie was not afraid of the water, no matter how cold it was. She immediately stuck her hands and arms in, and it took everything I had to keep her from jumping head-first into the small pond of water. After pulling her off the ledge a few times (literally), I stood off a little ways watching her as she played in the water with complete awe and wonder of the multitude of sensations that this simple water feature provided. I dodged her hands, arms, and dripping wind-breaker jacket several times as she came over to give me a hug or to pull me into the water with her. I politely declined her invitations to join because I did not want to get cold and wet. Simultaneously, I was amazed at the joy she exuded. She was not afraid to get a little messy, no matter how uncomfortable. She approached the water with a wonder, experiencing every ounce of entertainment it had to offer. While, I, her boring dad, stood off to the side watching her engage the world around her.
As I reflect back on that moment, I sadly admit, that I, too often, approach my life in much the same way I approached Ellie and the water fountain that day. Afraid of getting, wet, messy, or just a little uncomfortable, I find myself standing idle to the world around me, not fully engaging it. I was reminded of Abraham Joshua Heschel who stated, “Wonder, rather than doubt, is the root of all knowledge.” Wonder is a gift that allows us to see the world with new eyes. Wonder leads to hope and motivates man (and woman) to embark on new horizons, to engage the world in which we live, and to set off on new adventures. Ultimately, it leads to encountering others. Wonder empowers us to reach out to others, to hug them, to embrace them, to invite them to joy. Yes, just as Ellie demonstrated at the fountain, wonder leads to encounter, to going to peripheries, to reaching out and lending a hand to those in need; to those who are standing idle, watching from a distance. It is wonder that strips us of our fear and leads us to endeavors that might make us messy, uncomfortable, and at times dripping wet. Sure, it might be safer to stand back and watch others experience the world in all of its grandeur and beauty, but where is the fun in that? So, yes, Rabbi Heschel, wonder is the root of all knowledge, but more accurately, I think it is the root of all joy. It was Jesus who said, “Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” (Luke 18:17) Through the powerful lesson taught by my two year-old teacher, I pray I may always have the wonder to enter it.