It was a pretty normal morning.
Our three children and I were wading through a close-by stream, searching for little creatures. We were quite the sight – large rubber boots, nets, and nature jars in our hands. But we had success – a toad – croaking loudly.
As we emerged from a treed space, I noticed a large group of children of all ages lined at the edge of the water. “Must be a homeschool group” was my first assumption – I’d never seen children here during a school day. Our children are always the only kids in the creek. Upon asking a young blond boy, I was pleasantly surprised to find out they were from a local alternative school.
“HEY! What ‘cha doin’ in there?” another boy hollered. Children were everywhere, crouched at the side of this glistening stream.
“We’re catching toads!” our son calls back.
As we come out of the water, teacher’s eyes wide (I’m certain they thought I was crazy), the school kids ooooh and ahhh at the sight of the brown toad.
“WOW!!! A FROG!” exclaims an older boy in a jump suit.
“No, a toad,” corrects a short boy in glasses. “Is it poison?”
The children circle us begging to see the poor frightened creature. Our daughter holds him out and I’m blown away by the shock and awe of these sweet children as they push closer to the croaking wonder.
“No… it’s not poisonous,” she assures as she smiles at me.
“We love catching frogs and toads!” I offer. “But we always put them back in their natural habitat.”
My seven-year-old son chimes in. “We do this every morning.”
A little symphony of “Ah, you’re so lucky…” and “Ohhh, that’s AWESOME!” pipes up. I can’t help but grin. Yes, we are lucky.
“Ms. Smith, can we go in?! Can we go in the stream like them?!” a little girl shouts.
“No, hun. They have boots on, you’re all wearing running shoes. We’re not prepared for that.”
Seems logical. The kids hunch at the water’s edge, staring longingly.
I sit across the park with my three under a large Weeping Willow and eat Watermelon and Tuna Sandwiches. As we mount our bikes and start the ride home, we pass over the bridge of the stream.
My heart leaps.
Children in the water. Children everywhere in the water. Shoes and socks are strewn all over the grassy field. Little girls giggle. Boys search fearlessly for creatures. Teachers laugh and shake their heads at the rocky edge, helpless to stop this little rebellion. I wave and smile, my soul tickled deep within.
Well, well. Looks like we started a little movement. Children immersed in the beauty of creation – nothing holding them back – not dirt, not slippery pebbles, not bare feet. This is the image of bliss.
I take a mental photograph as we glide past, breathing in the laughter as we go.