On the first full day of summer we met our newest grandchild. Jude, the tie-maker, brought our tally to 12 grandsons and 12 granddaughters, each one unique in both appearance and personality, and each a particular joy to this grandmother’s heart. The uniqueness of my grandchildren reflects in a graphic way the wonder of God who never made two of anything exactly the same.
When I find a shell on the beach or pick a dandelion in our field or examine a snowflake on my coat sleeve it may resemble other shells or dandelions or snowflakes, but if I look closely and compare two I can see differences. Even our honeybees (about 30-50 thousand in an average hive), look different when I examine them closely. And they go about their work gathering pollen and nectar from different flowers. I love to watch the foragers coming into the hive with full pollen pockets. Frequently I see orange and yellow pollen, but this Spring I noticed bees bringing in black pollen something new to thrill my old eyes. I had to do a little research to discover that poppy pollen can be black. Since the wild orange poppies were growing in abundance nearby, I assumed that was their source. What marvelous creatures honeybees are!
How can anyone with eyes to see not recognize God in every aspect of nature from the lowest one-celled amoeba to man who is “a little less than the angels?” God’s creation is the “diversity” we should celebrate. The natural world opens our eyes to the Maker, and yet how many irrationally deny there is a maker?
When the treasures of czarist Russia toured this country years ago I joined a bus trip to a Delaware Museum to see them. There were Faberge eggs on display, beautiful paintings, icons, textiles, and china, even the royal carriage. What a display of beauty. Each item was carefully identified with its maker if known. And yet so many who would marvel at the talent of a glassblower or artist, sneer at the idea that the wonders of nature were created by an intelligent designer. Jesus made it clear in the Sermon on the Mount when He described the wildflowers saying, “I assure you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was arrayed like one of these. If God can clothe in such splendor the grass of the field, which blooms today and is thrown on the fire tomorrow, will he not provide much more for you? …Seek first his kingship over you, his way of holiness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Matt 6: 29-33)
Parents and grandparents need to teach children Christ’s message of hope and love; and nature is the perfect tool. Children are fascinated by nature. Our two year old grandson comes down every morning when he’s visiting and asks to go out to the pool to find frogs in the skimmer basket. If he does, he wants to take them over to the fence and put them in the grass near our neighbor’s pond so “they can be happy.” This convinces me that our little grandson is a budding Chestertonian. I could easily see G.K. rescuing frogs. Filled with joie de vivre, he found excitement in lampposts, in the thought of lying in bed and writing with chalk on the ceiling, and in leaving home to find it. His protagonist in Man Alive, Innocent Smith, illustrates Christ’s call to “become like little children.” Smith is child-like, not childish, a man who finds joy in hanging upside down so he can see the world right side up. He holds others to their word, drawing a pistol on a nihilist who says life isn’t worth living only to see him begging for his life; courting a woman to whom he is already married; challenging a group of bored folks to trade their ennui for a picnic on the roof and turning somersaults in the garden. His shocking behavior is meant to arouse a dead world to the wonder of true living.
It isn’t easy to foster wonder in a world where many live in busy urban centers or suburbs surrounded by shopping malls tempting them to shop til you drop, where children, especially adolescents, are glued to their smart phones and I-pads, where many are living virtual lives instead of real ones. We need to open their eyes to see that life is more interesting than their gadgets. How? We can imitate Chesterton who believed the toy theatre he played with as a child (and continued to love as an adult) helped form the man he became filled with a sense of wonder and imagination that he shared so exuberantly with others.
Albert Einstein once said, if you want your children to be smart read them fairy tales; if you want them to be brilliant read them more fairy tales. I think Chesterton would agree. And my prescription for a world falling into increasing darkness, a world which has lost its sense of awe, is read Chesterton and tell stories! His joy is contagious; his imagination as gigantic as himself. Sit down with Man Alive or Fr. Brown, or St. Francis of Assisi and share them with others. Many have come to see the truth and convert to the faith because of the Apostle of Common Sense!