As a way to share our blessings with others, we often invite guests to join us on our annual trip to Orlando, Florida, folks who might otherwise never be able to experience the kind of vacations we’ve come to take for granted. On one occasion, in particular, we asked a good friend of ours if she and her two boys, ages 7 and 11, would like to come. It was quite a treat for my own kids to have someone to entertain and sort of “show the ropes,” given their own veteran status as Orlando tourists.
One of the high points of our Orlando trips is our visit to Sea World where we never cease to be amazed at the phenomenal face-to-face encounters between the trainers and Shamu, the killer whale. As one might expect, given the Florida climate, every single time we visit any of the Orlando parks, we experience a downpour, lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours and, of course, on this trip we were not disappointed. What made it interesting, though, was the behavior of our little 7-year old friend, Nathan. My own kids range in age from 13 to 17, so I no longer get to enjoy the total abandon of innocence, excitement and naivete’ that accompanies the littler folks. Needless to say, I was somewhat enamored with Nathan’s fanciful spirit.
Not long after we arrived at the park, the ran began to fall, and all of us quickly sought shelter to wait out the worst of it, which in this instance didn’t last very long at all. It did linger long enough, however, to create major puddles throughout the entire park, puddles that most of us avoided, all except my little friend.
As I walked behind the group, I watched as everyone stepped from side to side or straddled or tiptoed through the newly created liquid pools, everyone except Nathan, that is. It became evident very quickly that Nathan had a strategic plan in place as he embarked on his journey; he systematically made sure to walk through, jump in, or splash around every puddle he encountered. Sadly, my natural inclination was to steer him away from the water. Why? I wondered. Was it to keep his feet dry or to keep him from ruining his shoes? Or was it just a byproduct of the stale, adult-oriented schemata neatly mapped out in my head?
In any case, I managed to overcome my urge to squelch the fun and, instead, simply observed. The sheer joy that child experienced playing in the water was more refreshing than the water itself. I imagined what the draw must be, why it was so important to Nathan that he experience every liquid encounter possible as he traveled from point A to point B. After just a few minutes, I understood; I got it! Nathan indulged in what many would consider frivolous behavior for one reason and one reason only – because he could!
How many of us spend our lives focused on what we can do versus what we can’t do? We live in a world so driven by what we “can’t,” “don’t,” “couldn’t,” and “shouldn’t” do that we miss all the “cans,” “dos,” “coulds,” and “shoulds.” I “can” work everyday at something I enjoy and earn a living. I “do” go for a brisk walk every morning to get charged up for the day. I “could” throw out convention and engage in my own frivolous behavior. I “should” never take for granted the live I’ve been given that allows me to enjoy carefree walks in the rain with close friends and family. Life gives us lots of “freedom to” moments to experience events that will never come our way again — “Carpe diem!”