March 1, 2021
Arthur H. Gunther III
America doesn’t smile as much these days. The virus. Jobs gone, debt, deficit, taxes, disappointing “leaders,” the greedy, less spirit, confused purpose, lost understanding of how, why the nation was founded — not much to be happy about.
Until you see a child’s face.
Not talking about my own grandchildren, for I am prejudiced. Nor the smiles of any particular kids I know. As with so much of life, it is the anonymous who are seen most acutely, most honestly. We have no direct stake in who they are, where they have been, where they are going. There are no ties, no responsibilities in the seconds it takes to glance at their openness, the smile from non-cluttered thinking in childhood expression.
Where are they, the young who smile? In innocence, surely. In curiosity, yes. In mile-a-minute thinking as their fertile, inquisitive minds begin to collect and catalog sights, sounds, smells, emotions. Most of all, in imagination, in that magical world where there are few limits, where super heroes are made and trusted, where Cinderella can meet her fella, where right can win out, where the frontier is the jump over the moon into the cosmos.
And, of course any child can do that. He/she has not been taught otherwise.
We adults forget so much of a child’s world and come to tolerate it as a growing phase worthy of a nice pat on the head as we plan for college way too soon, not remembering that the best education in our own lives was when we were young and few boundaries had been set.
Who is the wisest in the set? The youth in imagination or the “accomplished” adult who has made a mess of things in today’s America?
The nation no longer smiles as much, but the young still do, in almost any circumstance. All things seem possible in such early time, anything.
Pity that we grow up.
The writer is a retired newspaperman. This essay was adapted from an earlier writing.