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Oh, to live our childhood again


© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000

The little girl at Gulf View Square approached the fountain with a big smile on her face. She approached the fountain, closed her eyes, made a wish and threw the coin in. Her mother watched with a similar smile, as she watched a ritual so familiar to many of us who still believe in a little magic in life.

That little ceremony made me wish only one thing -- that perhaps her mother would have thrown a coin in as well, with a wish riding on it. For wishes are not just for children. If we don't aspire to something just a little bit magical, then the child in us has faded away, and that is a bit sad, it seems to me.

In this world in which cynicism is held as a mark of maturity and sometimes even strength, we all could probably conduct a little inventory of our own behaviors and see if we need to cling to some things we may have lost since we were kids.

Here are some things we could all use a little of in this state of what we laughingly call adulthood. If I threw a coin in the fountain, I would hope the following things would come to pass:

Laughter. It is not often that we hear laughter ringing in our ears, it seems. There seems to be a perpetual state of anger and anxiety in most people. When we were kids, we often heard each other laugh, but somehow this habit goes away from us. There should be something besides the latest gross joke that brings a smile to our face and makes laughter pour forth. Maybe we can all take the advice to lighten up. Some people have said that a hundred years from now, none of the things we consider to be serious will be thought of that way. In truth, many of the things we are worrying about today will seem trivial next week, let alone a long time from now.

Health. When we are kids, we think of ourselves as pretty much immortal. There is no sense that life will ever end because most children are blessed with perfect or nearly perfect health. Perhaps if we all realized what a state of bliss is brought on by being generally healthy, we could stop some of the stupid behaviors we indulge in when we grow up.

Young kids generally don't smoke, engage in road rage or have deep anxiety over their jobs -- so they miss out on some main ways we as adults try to kill ourselves. If we could only recapture the childlike attitude that most things in life aren't that big a deal, that we shouldn't sweat the small stuff, perhaps we could come to a new understanding of how to take care of ourselves and make a healthy life more precious again.

Curiosity. We had a million questions as we grew up. Then we went to a building to learn some of the answers to life's questions for about 12 years. Some of us went to other buildings for another four years or more when we went to college. But what we seem to have lost is the fact that most of what we really want to learn in life takes place outside those buildings and that our questions should never stop.

When we were growing up, many of us thought libraries were great places to go. But some of us have never picked up a book outside of those we had to pick up when we were getting our formal education. But it is our informal education that really counts. Harry Truman, the last president to have not attended college, read all his life and is generally considered as one of our best presidents. His childlike need to learn never left him. We should all be so lucky.

Wonderment. This one is somewhat tough to define, but perhaps it can be best embodied in a holiday most of us celebrate -- Christmas. If we no longer get any enjoyment out of what is supposed to be the most joyous time of year, it seems all of the wonderment -- the ability to enjoy -- has been beaten out of us since we were kids. This inability to enjoy life and suspend cynicism seems to spill over into other aspects of our lives all year. Holidays and other special occasions come and go,and we remain the same. When we were kids -- there seemed to always be something to look forward to. As adults, we sometimes look forward to nothing. To revive this anticipation is perhaps one of the best things we can do for ourselves to bring back a bit of kid in us.

If you see an adult male at Gulf View Square throwing several pennies in the fountain, and smiling, it just may be me -- wishing all of the above for all of us.

-- Douglas Spangler, a writer and former university administrator, lives in New Port Richey. Guest columnists write their own views on subjects they choose, which do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.

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