When my children were seven and five we did a sponsored 'Walk for the Whales', ten kilometres around Auckland's bays. They were both veterans of various marches and had a collection of badges with mottos such as 'You can't cuddle children with nuclear arms' and 'Live simply so that others may simply live.' The rainbow-coloured Greenpeace badge was an attractive prize.
At one stage my daughter asked how this was helping the whales, which was a fair point, but she walked gamely on with the crowd. It was a beautiful day, the views of Auckland harbour were inspiring and the atmosphere among the marchers festive.
At the eight kilometre mark she went pale and floppy. I laid her down on a bench, massaged her legs, got some food and water into her and a fellow marcher hoisted her up on my shoulders to complete the walk.
Her little voice floated down from above: 'Will I still get the badge?'
There's something very touching about the trusting way a child will persevere, even in a task not clearly understood, for a reward that's intangible or uncertain. Now I am able to see my grandson tackle the new tasks of his little life with the same persistence and enthusiasm, whooping with delight as he learns that he can walk, thrilled that he can carry something in his hands which of course was impossible when crawling. He goes back and forth around the room, practising, waving good-bye to me as he heads out the door.
Is this why it's so compelling to learn new things? To re-create that delight, that Garden of Eden moment of discovery? Watching him clarifies for me the need to learn openly and without judgement or self-criticism. Being awake and in the moment, joy is not far away.