Friday, July 27, 2012

Lost and Found

"Your a loser." 
"No, I'm not. I'm a finder."
—overheard conversation between 12-year old 
and 3-year old from our backseat while on road trip.

If you read this blog with any regularity, you may get the impression that I think children are wiser than most adults. When it comes to instinctively not doing things that don’t add enjoyment to their life, like worrying or holding grudges, they are pretty clever. Kids are creative thinkers with limitless imaginations. Their capacity for wonder, delight and love never ceases to inspire me. But there is a big difference between common sense and wisdom. It seems like as we begin to find one, we lose touch with the other. 
We went to the original Hooters in Clearwater last night to watch the World Wing Eating Championship. Talk about silly fun. There was a carnival barker on stage with a straw hat introducing professional eaters like the “black widow” and “crazy legs” and "notorious B.O.B.". It is the same cast of characters who go to Coney Island every Fourth of July to engorge themselves on Nathan’s Hot Dogs. THEE World Champion Eater Joey Chestnut even signed my son’s cast. But I digress. The point is it was extremely crowded and we had to remind the kids what to do and what not to do if we get separated.
While we were on our vacation in California two weeks ago, my son’s best friend got lost at Pier 39 in San Francisco. One minute we were taking pictures together of sealions, the next minute, he disappeared in a brisk moving crowd. The first ten minutes of patiently waiting by the last spot we were together gave way to a nervous visit to security. Which gave way to a panicked call to police after 30 minutes of fruitless searching. For two and half hours, my imagination ran away as I drove in a squad car up and down the streets along the wharf. It did not help matters when the officer received a report of someone impersonating a police officer with a fake badge nearby. It didn’t help that this 12-year old knew his parents number by heart, but was not calling. It turns out, his cell phone battery was dead and he didn’t pursue borrowing one. He walked several blocks away to where we valet parked our rental car, asked an employee to let him wait inside the car and fell asleep in the back. When he woke up and saw the police and security walking around, he was either scared he would be in trouble or not aware that there was a connection to him. He sat in the car and watched the search until an officer literally opened the car door and asked his name. It was not possible for him to comprehend how worried sick everyone else was because he never felt in danger. It was the most intense, life altering 150 minutes of my life. Two weeks later, I can finally talk about it with some clarity and objectivity.
I am not the first parent to question how to raise your children to be aware without being afraid . Wouldn’t it be nice to give them insight into other people’s perceptions without losing their unwavering sense of self?  But how can we teach that fine line when most of us don’t know it for ourselves?  There must be a lot of people searching for something lost to justify all the new books and talk shows by all the self proclaimed “self help” experts out there. While on my own journey, I have read a lot of those books. The last and perhaps most helpful advice I read by Anthony DeMello talked about losing something in order to gain. Call it satisfaction, happiness, inner peace or awareness. Whatever is missing in your life, can not be found without letting go first of limiting labels, weighty memories and useless emotions. 

What can you lose today?

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