as published in the Blytheville Courier News on Friday, April 15, 2016
By TOM HENRY
Oh, what has happened to my eyes? This week I had the privilege of visiting the Wiley Center and watching the preschoolers participate in an event that celebrates Arkansas Children’s Week. The last time I walked through that building was probably 20 years ago or more and it was called Franklin Elementary at the time. The place has changed a lot, but I still heard many echoes of the past as I walked on the campus and through the building. That visit affected me more than I could have expected.
I stood there as a parent of two daughters that are now out of school, and I ached to once again hold my babies. The “daddy” in me just rose up and I enjoyed watching those children so much I could have stayed there all day. I scanned their former cafeteria and watched approximately 100 children all doing their individual thing…and it was marvelous.
I have to admit that I am a sucker for a little girl. A cute little preschool girl can wrap me around her finger before I can even realize what is happening. That’s just the honest truth. That is probably why the first child that stood out to me was a cute little girl wearing a tiara. She wore that crown with as much confidence and dignity as Queen Elizabeth II does. Why? Because through her eyes, she knows that she is royalty — no, I mean it, she really is!
As the entire older group was doing physical exercises by dancing, I noticed another girl simply enjoying herself while following the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “dancing to the beat of a different drum,” and it was lovely. People are different for a reason. Those differences add flavor and beauty to our world. Through her eyes, she was already a professionally trained dancer – and I agree!
In two different places on the floor, I witnessed two different boys interacting with the girls next to them, and neither Don Juan nor Pepe Lepew could have ever exercised more charm and “game.” It was amazing to watch the absolute confidence. Through their eyes, they were ultimate ladies men — and the girls thought so too!
I pondered this for a while. I also noticed joy, kindness, vulnerability, wonder, love, fun and many other terrific things in the bright eyes of those children. There were only a small handful that didn’t have those bright eyes, and I pray that whatever is stealing their joy ends. But most of them were simply bright, clear-eyed and full of hope, future, endless possibilities, quenchless curiosity, boundless kindness, complete and utter trust.
Someone once said that if we could only see through the eyes of a child, we would see magic in everything.
So again I ask, oh what has happened to my eyes? When and why did I ever believe the mirage that this world we live in is hopeless and limited? When did I stop believing in my future and in what I can accomplish if I’m willing to work hard enough? When did I buy the lie that all people are mean, dangerous and not capable of being trusted?
Where did my dance go? Where did my confidence go? Where did my royalty go? Can it be redeemed? Of course it can. But how?
I’m determined to come down off of my blind, adult “high and mighty” and begin to notice the hundreds of miracles we pass by every day. I’m going to allow myself to be eccentric enough, individual enough and child-like enough to be myself. I’m going to enjoy the flowers, say hi to the birds, speak to strangers, believe in myself and get excited looking forward to what tomorrow brings. My best days are ahead of me, not behind me. And so are yours!