Innocence is something that is harder and harder to find, which makes it that much more precious when encountered. It exists most often in children and that's where I experienced it last month when Mary Pepe invited me to read to her fourth grade class at Moyock Elementary School.
The children were curious and cautious about this stranger who sat before them with the book I had selected, Edith and Mr. Bear, which I've loved since reading it to my children and grandchildren over decades. They didn't take their eyes off me while summing me up as they gathered around my feet on the schoolroom floor.
The photographs that illustrate this delightful book are extraordinary so I chose to read slowly with feeling and stop frequently to turn the photographs of the doll Edith, interacting with a dignified Mr. Bear and the small teddy bear, Little Bear. I commented on the story line periodically and occasionally asked the children a question about the story line.
As they became more and more absorbed in the charming story of the doll who accidentally broke Mr. Bear's clock on a mantelpiece she had to climb up to reach, and then briefly ran away thinking she had been too bad to be forgiven, the children let down their guard and accepted me. By the time we finished with the story and talked about it a little, each child eagerly shared their own feelings and experiences, anxious to share them with me.
How open and delightful these nine and
ten-year-old children had become, anxious to get to know,
and just as anxious to be known,by someone
who had just entered their lives. It was refreshing.
How open and delightful these nine- and ten-year-old children had become, anxious to get to know, and just as anxious to be known, by someone who had just entered their lives. It was refreshing. They wanted me to stay as much as I wanted to stay longer.
I had been invited to introduce them to my publication and I brought enough Shoppers for each to have one. They immediately opened them and began to look over page after page as I described how I had started the magazine 25 years earlier.
So much more than polite, the children exuded enthusiasm for my product and my story. I took pictures, which I promised would be in their Great Bridge/Hickory/Moyock edition this month and was thrilled at their joyful anticipation of seeing themselves.
I couldn't have been more delighted when a big envelope arrived the following week filled with thank you cards the children made, wrote and illustrated themselves. The cards were filled with love and appreciation. One even had a drawing of the boy and of me together with the words "Best Friends" uniting us.
I want to be like those children. Cautious enough with strangers to make certain they are in safe company, then open to hearing what the stranger has to say, and finally interacting honestly with great enthusiasm until love shows through.
Jean Loxley-Barnard has been a writer all her life and studied both sociology and psychology at George Washington University where she earned a B.A. Her company, The Shopper, Inc., encompasses all the Loxley-Barnard family publications - The Shopper Magazines and Doctor to Doctor Magazine. She has been in the advertising, consulting and publishing business for 39 years.
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