I like to think I was a naturally curious child, although my family would have said ‘nosey.’ When we went camping, I loved to watch the other families on the site; enjoying this glimpse into the lives of others. And who doesn’t like a bit of people watching – isn’t that the whole point of sitting outside a café? To this day, I struggle to sit at the back of any meeting – people are really, distractingly interesting.
One of the most wonderful things about parenting or teaching young children as they grow up is that they are naturally curious. Sometimes this leads to difficult questions: Why is the sky blue? Why does a leopard have spots? Where do we go when we die? Sometimes it leads to embarrassing questions: Where do babies come from? How did the baby get in there? But always it shows a mind open to new possibilities; a mind that wants to learn. As Albert Einstein put it, “I have no special talents. I am just passionately curious.”
Children have a way of being able to completely distract you and, before you know it, you have completely lost your train of thought, forgotten what it was you came into the shop for or what you were supposed to be teaching them. I once taught a class of five year olds who somehow got me into a discussion about what God looks like. It wasn’t even an R.E. lesson and yet this is where the conversation landed. I explained that this is something that many would have a different idea about, if in fact that they had ever given it any thought at all or believed that God was real. The children persisted so, in true teacher style, I turned it round onto them and asked them to go and think about it.
Later that morning, a little girl brought me a picture. When I asked her to tell me about it, she explained that it was God with a skipping rope. Intrigued, I asked her why she had chosen to draw God like this and she replied, “Because he is happy.” I have seen many representations of God and Jesus over the years (often with blond hair and
looking very Western-European) but I had never seen such a picture as the one drawn by Emily. She had no preconceptions about God and, as she was a child who would skip whenever she moved around a room, she drew what to her was the epitome of being happy – skipping. She had no hang ups about drawing, and was open to letting her mind just wander.
We seem to lose that natural curiosity to a certain degree as we get older. Perhaps it’s because we do know more things; but maybe our minds become closed to new possibilities and ideas. Life gets busy or we put limitations on ourselves, thinking we know all we are probably ever really going to know or have experienced most of what we want to experience. Many of us don’t think to start a new hobby, go and see a new band or maybe read a book by a new author. And yet the rewards are endless.
I recently persuaded my husband (who likes romantic comedies or – at a stretch – Paddington) to watch Green Book – the recent Oscar-winning film about a black concert pianist travelling through the south of America, being driven by a tough, white, Italian bouncer from New York. The film shows the many preconceptions the characters have about each other, but as they spend more time together they both learn new skills and develop a deeper understanding of each other. It certainly made me think about my own preconceptions and expectations of others.
So let me challenge you to be curious and experience the fact that asking questions and learning new things can take you on great adventures. Read a new author. Try a new hobby. Watch a different type of film. Learn something new. Maybe even try an Alpha group at your local church? Just be curious, and you never know where the journey will take you.
Written by Rosalyn Satchell