“Let’s have a tranquilo afternoon,” I said to Liz and Lisa, our interns. Tranquilo is the Spanish word for calm or relaxing. “Sounds good to me,” Liz replied. We were all feeling tired on Thursday morning – it had already been a very full week.
We spent Monday afternoon playing with cornstarch and water as well as making our own puffy paint that puffs up when you microwave it. The kids called it an “experiment” and made painting after painting after painting all afternoon. “That was a success,” I said to Liz at the end of the day.
Tuesday was much of the same with puffy paint again. They just loved it. Wednesday we tried something new. I brought over my glue gun, hair dryer and old crayons. We hot glued the crayons to cardboard and then melted them with the hairdryer to make all kinds of drippy designs as the crayons melted and dripped down the cardboard.
I left that afternoon covered from head to toe in melted crayon, smiling and happy. Nothing gives me greater joy than watching these children become absorbed in the process of creating something beautiful, trying something new, being curious and amazed. That expression on their faces is priceless and indescribable. They spend so much of their day in a state of stress and fighting with everyone around them, that to see them be able to relax and focus on something they enjoy, for even just a few moments, is an amazing thing to see. If I can provide those opportunities for them, nothing could make me happier.
So Thursday afternoon we decided to have a “tranquilo” afternoon. I’m chuckling to myself as I write this, because nothing could be further from the truth! First of all, some kids showed up who had not had a chance to melt crayons, but had heard about it and asked if they could do it. Of course I couldn’t say no and miss out on the chance to see their faces light up with amazement. So Liz started getting the hairdryer, glue gun and cardboard out again. Soon the table was full of kids wanting to do it. I love watching their faces as they melt the crayons with the hairdryer and figure out how to make different patterns as it melts by pointing the hair dryer in different directions. As I sat there helping them it started to rain.
Then it started to pour. And I mean dump. The rain was spraying in the rancho and then it was starting to flood inside. Everyone gathered around inside the rancho watching the rain. Some kids were getting restless and starting to fight with each other. Pretty soon one of the bigger boys grabbed me and pulled me out into the rain. Oh, the other kids just jumped at this chance and before you knew it we were having an all out tackle-wrestle war in the rain and mud. So much better to “play fight” than “real fight!” Everyone was shrieking and laughing. Pure wildness. The children’s faces were so full of joy as they slipped and slided in the rain – jumping, rolling, screaming with delight. I was spinning children around, giving horsey rides, being tackled and tickled. I have not laughed so hard in a long, long time – drenched and covered in mud and grass. My face hurt from smiling so big. One teenage girl was just rolling back in forth in the grass in reckless abandonment, a look of joy and freedom on her face.
When your life is lived surrounded by children the moments seem to slow down and are filled with a new sense of wonder. You notice the little things you would normally just pass by. Like playing in the rain. Children fill our lives with so many good things.
“…unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3.
How can we become like little children if we don’t spend time with them? I feel so privileged to be able to live my life surrounded by children. Because of them my life is full to the brim and running over with all the love, laughter and joy that they bring.