Recently, I listened to Junlei Li, of the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media, speak about his work with children. He spoke to our advisory board at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. I wondered what seeing the world through a child’s eyes would be like. The question struck me as we viewed a video of captivated children working with electrical conductors.
I experienced the same type of wonder at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland, Oregon, where I saw children literally diving into their science projects.
What goes on in the minds of a child when captivated? What do they see that we adults miss?
In his studies, Konrad Zacharias Lorenz, an Austrian zoologist, ethologist and ornithologist, raised the same questions, but applied to birds. To answer how birds see the world, he observed their behavior for months, trying to figure out what moves them. One of his conclusions was that something is imprinted on them from birth that causes them to act as they do.
As adults, more often than not, we see the world based on our experiences. Unfortunately, this can lead to misunderstandings. To see through the eyes of another person — be it our husband, wife, children or neighbors — requires an effort.
First, it means imagining what they see that we don’t see. Practicing wonderment requires that we stop, gaze, sort through and avoid our usual way of seeing things. The same patience Lorenz practiced in exploring animal behavior is an absolute necessity. Distractions must be shut out and being “all there” with another is a priority.
Seeing through the eyes of another requires amazement of another’s uniqueness and studying the causes behind that uniqueness. We must put ourselves in their shoes (or eyes).
It also requires reverence and a sense of awe. Unique behaviors are imprinted within each of us. My mother would remind us, “It’s the genes that only you possess, they’re awesome, respect them!”
Seeing through the eyes of a child means keeping alive a childlike fascination and allowing it to captivate and draw us into the mind of another.
We must apply it when we wonder what Christ desired when he said, “Unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:3).
Is he prompting us to possess a child’s eyes fascinated by God’s creation and goodness?