I love kids, and one of my favorite things to do with them is to take walks. Nieces, nephews, my kids and grandkids, all have been with me for extended walks throughout the neighborhoods and nearby paths. Their ages haven’t mattered, whether they were in strollers or nearly as tall as I am, we still can find all kinds of things to see and talk about. Kids see the world with fresh eyes, and minds full of wonder. I always tried to enjoy and encourage that sense of wonder, while fostering a love and appreciation of living things. Sometimes I think I took the lessons just a little too far!
Many years ago my husband and his brother used to teach windsurfing at a nearby lake. Every single weekend during the summers we would take our kids and spend the day. The guys spent their time renting out boards and teaching the students, while my sister-in-law and I spent the days with the kids. Of course, when the boards were not in use by customers, we seized the opportunities to get out on the water ourselves. One day all the boards were in use, so I was in the shade under a tree reading a book, one of my absolute favorite pastimes in life.
I was completely engrossed in the story, but the sound of a small boy running and shouting intruded, “Aunt Sharon, Aunt Sharon, you’ve got to see what I found!”
It was Christopher, my nephew, who was about seven years old at the time. All parents know the art of multi-tasking, so I kept reading, but yelled out a response, “Okay Chris, come show me.”
In seconds he reached me, with a huge smile on his face and his hands behind his back. “Wait till you see what I found. Put your hands out.”
Reluctantly, I put my book down, and extended both hands toward Chris. Obviously I was still thinking about the book, because putting out your hands to a child with their hands behind their back is a dumb move! Chris proudly draped a long, slender, bright green snake across my hands!
My first impulse was to throw my hands up and scream, but somehow I resisted and held steady. After all, if I did that it would negate all that I’d been trying to teach him about the beauty of all living things. If I truly meant that we should revere all living things and treat them with respect, I couldn’t throw the snake into the air and run. So, a little shaky, I looked more closely at the creature in my hands, who appeared about as happy with the situation as I was. “Wow, Chris, the scales look like jewels. It really is a beautiful color. Thanks so much for bringing it to me.”
He just beamed with pride. His expression was well worth holding the harmless little snake. “I don’t think it likes being held though, so you need to find a safe place to put it. Unfortunately, most people are afraid of snakes and will try to hurt or kill it if they see it, so you need to find a very special place. Try to find a spot with shade, and with bushes or tall plants so it can hide out of sight.”
Very gently, Chris took the snake out of my hands and ran off to find just the right place. My heart was still pounding when I sat back down with my book. It wasn’t long before he came running back, looking very satisfied with himself. “Aunt Sharon, I found the perfect place for the snake.”
“Great, where did you put it?”
“Right under a bush next to the door of the girl’s bathroom!”
Luckily there were no screams during the day from the girl’s bathroom, so the snake and the people were all safe. I still take walks with kids, still try to teach them respect and reverence for all living things, but have added a little about not picking them up!