In the coronavirus gloom comes the new life of spring. Yesterday the temperature was in the low 70’s and today looks like a repeat. The parks are full of children (the playgrounds are closed) but children have a way of creating their own games and their own fun. Daffodils have opened to the sun and the sense of what spring is all about is everywhere.
On the sidewalks in the park some children have scrawled their own messages of hope: “Don’t Worry Be Happy” – “Everything is going to be ok.” On either side of these messages were large petaled flowers in yellow and pink and purple. You could almost see the delight on the faces of these anonymous artists even though all that remained is their art.
As I was letting my mind wander, as I contemplated these voices of hope, a young girl ran past. Her age: perhaps 7 or 8. I think she was running for the sheer joy of running. Her golden yellow hair streaming as she raced past me. The sun glinted on the strands and as the sun beams became one with her hair, I caught a glimpse of her smile. It was as radiant and bright as the sun, full of delight and full of the wonder of just being alive.
I thought that perhaps this was just a short sprint, but no — it was a longer run. I looked for a brother or sister that might be chasing her, there were none that I saw. I thought she might slow and come to a stop and walk a bit, but no she just ran. Her head was held high and her joy seemed to create beams in her wake.
As she slipped into the distance on the path on the other side of the park, I thought about the joy of running and the joy of being a child. George Sheehan once said “children know what they need to know about life intuitively. They run and play some, they sleep when they are tired, and they eat when they are hungry. They listen to their bodies.”
I thought about that as I watched the young girl, still running, return to my side of the park. As I watched her, I thought about my life and the joy I have felt running, a sense of abandon, a sense of freedom, a sense of joy.
As I reflected on that I had an image of my father, a flashback, perhaps when he was 50, suddenly without preamble or any kind of warning, just break into a sprint for 50 or 75 yards. When he finished these outbursts he would stop and look at me and grin, from ear to ear. It was almost as if he was saying See, I’m alive. I never asked him why and he never told me. But I think it was just about the joy of running, of being alive, the universal wonder expressed by the girl in the park.
There is lots of turmoil and struggle in the world. There is a pandemic and there is fear and there is good and bad struggling for ascendancy in the midst of a world really reeling from all that is happening; and in a park in Prairie Village, Kansas, there is a little girl who runs just for the joy of being alive. In that same park, some children left messages of hope.
I’m sure the messages of joy and hope stretch from one end of this country to the other and in the wake of those messages we all must stand in awe, knowing there will be a new day.