Saturday, 14 November 2015

Learning from little children by Sue Irving 14th November 2015

Without a greeting, our nephew Timo races through the house and straight into the back garden. Standing next to the compost bin, he demands to see the slowworm, which his uncle showed him two years earlier. I am amazed that he remembers the encounter, as he was only 4 at the time.

Timo is a little disappointed when he is told that slowworms are sleeping at this time of year - and no, they don’t like being woken up! Soon the slowworm is forgotten. Timo and his sister Gina immerse themselves in the next activity – digging for potatoes. For them, everything is potential treasure.

They stay fully engaged, whether they are searching for interesting sea shells on West Wittering beach, count the steps to the top of Arundel castle or look down on Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament from the London Eye.  While I am physically with them on their various adventures, my mind and heart are often preoccupied with other things, wandering ahead to the next item on the itinerary or making shopping lists for dinner.

I am sure that Timo and Gina would notice a burning bush and go up to investigate - would I even notice it? If I did, I would probably be inclined to call the fire brigade to deal with the potential fire hazard! I sometimes wonder how many burning bushes I am missing because I am not in the here and now. God is the “Great I Am” the Present One, after all...

The children do not worry about what the next hour will bring, let alone the next day. They trust that they will be fed when they are hungry.

Theirs is a world of more than enough. When I ask them to pick up a handful of sand for me, they fill two plastic bags to overflowing. In hindsight, I can see that my request must have seemed strange when there were miles and miles of sand in both directions. Their laughter seemed to say ““There is so much of this stuff here, so why ask for so little?” They celebrate what is on offer and share it freely – no hoarding mentality or greed.

I know Timo and Gina are no angels. They can be manipulative, moody and mean  - just like their aunt and other adults. And still: There is a lot I can learn from their attitude and approach to life. Indeed, I have no choice but to learn from them if f I want to live freely as one of God’s children: “...unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Jesus in Matthew 18:3)

I am sure that imitating them would not just impact on my relationship with God and other people, but also on my writing. Whenever I write about something that happened and my descriptions are vague and general, I know that I was not fully present at that moment...

About the author:
Sue Irving is the co-ordinator for the Creative Communicators in Petersfield. She has co-written a book with her husband John about their experiences (and God’s lessons!) when climbing Kilimanjaro. How to conquer a mountain: Kilimanjaro lessons is available as a paperback and an e-book on Amazon, with all proceeds going to charity.



  1. More and more, this becomes a cogent message for our lives today. I find it so hard to concentrate on the now, my mind always on the next thing because there's so much to remember. I do really enjoy it when my grandchildren come and stay because it makes me put the brakes on. They have the skill of 'living for now' down to a fine art, as you say!

  2. Certainly true that writing descriptions, whether prose or poetry requires great attention to what we observe. Sue

  3. Great lesson on and from life. It is so true that we are often disengaged from what is going on around us. This is an excellent reminder