A few days ago I watched the wonder in a child’s eyes as he traveled on the downtown train with his mother. The boy, probably about 3 years old, found excitement in everything happening around him. “Momma, look at the dog outside.” The train slowed down, and then stopped moving altogether. “Momma, it stopped!” His face lit up and he curiously peered out the window of the train, trying to catch a glimpse of whatever it was that had caused the train to stop.
The rest of us sat in dull silence. Why were the rest of us indifferent to the mystery of why the train had stopped? Conditioned to think logically, we probably all had assumed that it stopped because a light turned red. But I am confident that the red light never even entered the child’s mind. He thought it more likely that the train had been stopped by dragons, or a lion or a giant beanstalk that had sprouted up in the middle of the tracks.
The stop was exciting and mysterious to the boy. But for the rest of us, the stop didn’t even make us think. The boy’s reaction caused the faces around him to reflect in one of two ways. Some people’s eyes lit up, and they smiled, as if they too were intrigued by this mystery but were too afraid to say so. The other group of people hardened their faces or left them unmoved.
These serious, long-faced, dignified folk were too serious to entertain thoughts of dragons, beanstalks, flying horses, superheroes, Santa Claus, dwarves and magical trees, because they chose long ago to believe that they do not exist. But with one sentence, the boy challenged that, and those who held it reeled at the challenge. The boy, whose belief in the “make believe” was still strong, posed a threat. I think that those that were frowning knew, deep down, that if people stopped to think about it, they would resurrect their imaginations. They would turn their heads, look out the windows, and see flying turtles, space cars, Spider-man and elves.
When all was said and done, no one said anything, and the matter was dropped. The dragon (or whatever it was) disappeared, and we all went on as though nothing had happened. We left the mystery unsolved. Next time, I will be sure to investigate a bit more before making an assumption.
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