The very best thing about being a grandparent is that you get to relive the amazing journey through childhood, without being distracted by exhaustion or overburdened with responsibility.
And what fascinating creatures two-year-olds are!
“How does she do that without throwing her back out?”
“How does she fall down like that and not break something?”
“How does she SLEEP like that!?”
What has really captured me about all my grandchildren, though, is their limitless curiosity.
“What’s THAT SOUND?” “That’s the furnace coming on, Nina.”
“What’s THAT THING?” “That’s a dust bunny, Nina.”
"What's Grandma DOING?" "She's going to the washroom, Nina."
Everything, from a candle snuffer to a cracker crumb creates a moment of joyous discovery.
That capacity for curiosity seems to diminish, though, with age. It’s easy, over time, to acquire a “Been there done that” attitude. We live near Niagara Falls. I’m always taken aback at how awestruck visitors are when they see the Falls for the first time. I shouldn’t be. The Falls are amazing. But for locals, it’s kind of ho hum.
Betty Pries is a well-known mediator and conflict management specialist who is known to many churches in Waterloo Presbytery. I heard Betty say something at a workshop that really stuck with me.
She said that, in high stress or conflicted situations, we should strive to “move from judgment to curiosity.”
Moving from judgment to curiosity.
Judgment is essential. It’s one of the key components of a moral life. Every time we choose right over wrong, or better over worse, we exercise judgment.
But judgment can harden into a shell that locks us and others into one place, ridgid and immovable. Judgment can make us lazy. Rather than making the effort to truly know and understand someone, we make a snap judgment. “Oh, she’s (fill in the blanks.) What do you expect?” We make snap judgments that close down our sense of curiosity about the other, and the potential for creating a relationship.
Curiosity comes naturally to Nina. I need to work at it. We need to work to maintain that sense of curiosity about one another:
“I wonder what he meant by that?”
“I wonder what made her react in that way?”
“I wonder what’s going on in his life right now?”
“I wonder what it would be like to be in her place?”
Curiosity can move us past the fixed certainties of judgment to a place of openness and wonder.
Christians have spent two thousand years pondering the meaning of Jesus’ cryptic saying that his followers must “become like little children.” Jesus’ words could mean many things, but one thing I believe they mean is that we need to continue cultivating a sense of curiosity about the world around us, and the people who cross our paths.