Walking with the dog this morning, we rounded the corner of our yard to head in, and there was a cottontail bunny sitting in the road, about 150 feet away. The street was quiet, so I clicked off the leash and told Missy in a quiet voice, “Go get the bunny.” She looked around, not seeing it. (Getting a little old.) “There it is,” I pointed, and she took a few steps forward, then started to eagerly sniff around. “No, Missy, over there!” She looked again to where I was pointing and trotted down the street 10 feet before she saw it.
Zoom! Running full speed, she was within 5 feet when the rabbit decided to leap away. Missy gave chase for the width of the street before giving up. She trotted back, tail up, panting, with a wide doggy grin on her face. I laughed out loud with her in joy. We both knew she’d never catch it, but that wasn’t the point; it was the chase!
I realized it has been a while since I have laughed like that with simple joy.
This year has been tough with lots of challenges and changes. The crises aren’t what usually get to me; it’s the little worries and the Big Thoughts that will start to bog me down. There’s a saying “Don’t go into your head alone, it’s a bad neighborhood.” It’s easy to feel like I’m going in circles or stuck in a cul-de-sac. I need to be reminded of the joys of life, like chasing bunnies for the fun of it.
Animals are good for that sort of thing, as can be young children. Whether a cat with a new toy, a toddler discovering finger paint for the first time, or puppies chasing the ball until they drop, their sheer exuberance is contagious. For a moment we remember what it is like to be unburdened, unfettered, and full of joy in life.
We are, by and large, social animals. We need community to give us perspective, a sense of belonging, and to remind us what it’s like to be a child. We need to be reminded that being grown up, responsible, and serious must be balanced by laughter, joy, and play, or our soul withers. Rain in the desert, a bird’s song, a child’s giggle, a friend’s full-bellied laugh– all these little joys are reminders that life is good.
This is why “childlike faith” isn’t a matter of naivete or being unrealistic. It’s looking at life with a child’s wonder, reveling in the newness of each day. It’s chasing dreams for the journey — the run, the learning and exploring — whether we reach to original goal or not. It’s trusting God (or the Universe, if you will) to work out the big things we really have no say over anyway.
So why let myself get bogged down in the bad neighborhood? Habit. Today, I’m going to break out of the neighborhood to go run in the park and swing on the swing set. Care to join me?