Austin is almost three, and an absolute joy to be with. He has that wide-eyed wonder of a child looking at life for the first time and seeing it for the true miracle it is….every rock, stick, and animal he comes across. Especially animals. Austin is obsessed with animals.
He is also full of energy, and an only child. Watching his parents reminds me of the time I was a young parent of an only child, a child who was bouncy, blustery, full-of-energy and wide-eyed wonder, and how exhausting it was to keep up. So whenever we are around Austin and his family, I zoom in on Austin pretty quick and try to get him to play with me. I think I am making progress; at least, he likes me when he sees me with my dog.
The other day, at a cookout with Austin’s family, he and I took a “walk” around the pond. By “walk”, I mean run-stop-look-chase-giggle-throw-jog-sweat-breathe. By the time we got to the other side of the pond, I was wondering what I had been thinking when I signed up for this trip. We were only half way done, and I was full of grilled burgers and baked beans, hot, and tired. My knees were reminding me that the days of running on uneven ground in flip-flops might just be behind me. And Austin was just getting started.
That’s when we found the toad.
Toads are fairly amazing creatures when you think about it, or when you look at them through the eyes of Austin. They are not particularly pretty, but their look suits them well; lost in the leaves and rocks by the side of the pond, we never would have seen it had we not accidentally disturbed its hideout, causing it to jump. It looked just like a rock with eyes. Austin zeroed in with all senses: fascinated.
Understandably, the toad hid. Austin peared closer…all awe and wonder, holding his breath, leaning in…in…
And the toad jumped, sending Austin pinwheeling backwards in shock and bursting with laughter. We could not stop laughing. That toad made our walk so much fun. It made our day.
I’ve been thinking a lot about “beauty” lately. Thinking that maybe it’s not so much the look of a thing, but how we look at it. How often do we label something as “ugly” and look away, and in that moment, turn away from grace?
What if instead, when in the presence of a toad, we turned toward it with awe and wonder and looked it square in the face?
Might we find something fearfully and wonderfully made?
A toad of a different name – person, place or thing – it’s all the same.
Name your toad. Lean in. Hold your breath, look closely, and wait. I dare ya. I bet what jumps out at you will make your day.