The young have much to teach the old. My three-and-a-half-year-old grandson, Max, has proved that.
I never expected to learn lessons from this small person who lives with me. Maybe, because we're in the thick of COVID-19 isolation, I'm alert for hidden meanings.
Here's the latest example. Max has been drawing for about a year, and he's really taken to it. To hold a pencil, he needs his thumb and three fingers. His grip is weak. He aims from above, almost hovering his hand above the pencil, so the image he creates looks as if it's falling from the pencil rather than being pressed onto the page. Surprisingly, he's never expressed frustration with this difficult process.
At first, he scribbled. Then, very slowly, he worked on making circles. Eventually he mastered a wobbly circle.
With more practice, he drew a wavy line.
Circles and lines are all Max can draw.
For the past six months, he has played with those two shapes. The more he played, the more he created. The more he created, the more elaborate his titles for those creations. Some drawings held whole stories.
Max's works fill him with glee. As soon as he finishes one, he shouts, "Look!"
I look; he explains; I label the drawings at his direction. I had to watch him toil over a bunch of pictures before the lessons emerged.
His first opus was a jellyfish.
Next came the moon walking.
He has drawn me. And he has drawn a monster, which looks amazingly like me.
He drew illustrations for the nursery rhyme "There was a crooked man."
Look! A snake
and an astronaut
Look! a robot
and lightning bolts.
. . . and there's much more.
So what are the lessons here? All kids go through the circle-and-sticks stage, I know. But I see something important here, something Max is teaching me through his labor and glee:
1. Don't get frustrated when things get hard; keep trying. Push past difficulties to find what's on the other side.
2. Make the most of what you've got. Combine or rearrange what you have in new, interesting ways.
3. Use your imagination; you can do amazing things using your minor talents and small tool supply.
4. Call it playing. Have fun with it.
People are applying these same ideas today to cope with the COVID quarantine. I've seen incredibly creative face masks, for instance, made of old socks, a baby's onesie, a bra, a handkerchief and hair bands, and more. By the many pictures posted on Facebook, I'd say folks had fun doing these projects. Then they had the added joy of donating the masks and knowing they might help save lives.
Another example of using a small tool kit and imagination: a family near me set up a free food pantry in their front yard, inspired by neighborhood little free libraries. "Give what you can and take what you need" is working for this pantry. The family sanitizes everything, and they're having a ball doing good.
If we look around, I think we'll see many other examples of people using creativity to help themselves and others survive. In the process, no matter how meager their skills and tool supply, I'll bet they're having fun - maybe even glee, like Max.
Max would say "Look!"
Gail Grenier is the author of Dog Woman, Don't Worry Baby, Dessert First, Calling All Horses, and Young Voices from Wild Milwaukee, all available on Amazon.com. Author royalties are shared with local charities.