Each time over the last year and a half that we've visited Shari, Robin, and Asher in St. Louis, our visit has included a trip to the impressive St. Louis Zoo, recently named the "top free attraction in America" (we like free). We also like zoos. No matter how many times you go, the unpredictable behavior of fascinating animals keeps the experience fresh.
Today had another fresh twist. Asher turned two years old today, and for Kathy and me, this was his first time of not being confined to his stroller or the arms of a parent or grandparent. Asher loves seeing animals at the zoo, and as soon as we passed through the front gates he successfully petitioned his way out of his stroller. Freedom! Free to run anywhere and do anything that the herding team of Shari, Kathy, and me would allow.
Asher not only loves zoo animals - he loves life in general. And as much as he enjoys animals, it also seems he enjoys everything else at the zoo. With each step (or even half step) there was a fascinating rock, or leaf, or stick, or wall, or sign to stop and behold. He definitely has to poke any glass sign that lights up to see if it's a touch-screen monitor. We were inside the zoo for more than 20 minutes before actually getting to see any non-squirrel animals. We'd probably still be there sans animal sightings without occasional gentle nudging by his mom.
This continued throughout our visit (and lest you misinterpret this, I loved every minute of it). Asher is even more fascinated by people (especially those close to his size) than rocks, sticks, leaves, and touch-screens. Asher almost didn't even see the huge grizzly bear that swam over and suddenly put its face six inches (including several inches of glass) in front of Asher's face. Asher was too busy noticing the little girl standing next to him. Same thing a little while later at the polar bear tank. The animals were coming close today. Including the monkeys. As crazy as Asher is about monkeys, even they had to compete for his attention with the stroller confined four-year-old little boy who didn't seem to appreciate that Asher kept calling him "baby."
In observing all this, I quickly realized two take-aways that interestingly are somewhat opposite each other:
1) How often do we miss some of the most important parts of life because we're so focused on less significant stuff? At a zoo you can see amazing animals that you rarely get to see any other time or anywhere else. Or you can be so focused on little things that you can see every day and everywhere to the point that you totally miss the amazing. Two-year-olds usually outgrow their fascination with rocks and leaves, but I imagine we've had more than one guy at our Seesalt or Chillipepper student conferences who missed out on a potentially life-changing face-to-face experience with God because their focus was on the girl sitting next to them. Sometimes we need to turn off the TV, take out the earbuds, disconnect the devices... They may be distracting us from experiencing much more amazing and important things.
At the same time...
2) How often do we go through life and miss the little everyday things along the way that can bring us enjoyment? Stop and smell the roses - or the rocks, leaves, sticks... I need to finish writing a script in the next few days. It's a big undertaking. It's important. I'm often thinking about it even when I'm not writing it. But it's not so big and important that I can't enjoy rocks and sticks. Especially when I can enjoy them with one of my grandsons. Beyond our own enjoyment, paying attention to the little things can make a big difference in important ways.
Take as much or as little as you'd like from #1 or #2. Or even both. Experiences from the St. Louis Zoo are free.