I am about halfway through the second chapter of the book I am reading when the most beautiful sound on earth distracts my attention: the laughter of a child.
Peering over the railing of my balcony, I see my 14-month-old neighbor, Nahum, entertaining himself on the grass below. The obvious object of his amusement is the plastic ball that keeps eluding his small grasp as he inadvertently kicks it away as soon as he gets close enough to pick it up.
My book is soon to be forgotten on my lap as my eyes start to follow the funny little figure as he traces a wobbly route around the garden on stocky legs and outstretched arms in pursuit of his round, blue treasure. His flushed face is etched with glee and laughter gushes from his belly like a bubbling stream, erupting anew every time his foot knocks that ball out of reach yet again.
An uneven stepping stone soon spoils the show, and I watch anxiously as Nahum loses his footing, does a few comical side steps in an attempt to balance, and finally lands squarely on his pampers-cushioned bum. I flinch in expectation of the sound that is about to disrupt a peaceful Sunday afternoon, but surprisingly, he does not cry. He just sits there, eyes wide, registering what has just happened. His mother must be somewhere inside the house and I wonder if he stays quiet because there’s no ready audience at hand.
The moment passes, all is okay, and after a few concentrated maneuvers, the little guy is back on his feet and ready to continue with the fun.
Betraying my silent observation, I call out to him. It takes a few calls before he pinpoints the origin of the sound and looks up at me. Smiling, I wave at him, and it is not long before I am rewarded with a smile in return, starting shyly in his gorgeous dark eyes, then slowly stretching chubby, dimpled cheeks into a wide baby-toothed grin that captivates my heart right then and there.
Wanting to hold on to that precious image for a moment longer, I continue talking to him, looking into those big, innocent brown eyes watching and absorbing me until he is ready to respond—and then he suddenly does, midway through my talking to him, by excitedly pointing to something (only he can see) and spewing out a long, loud string of colourful baby babble that abruptly ends when Mommy comes out to fetch him for his nap.
Reluctantly left to continue with the overturned book on my lap, I sit staring at the title—The power of NOW—and my mind wanders back to the delightful, brief encounter with little Nahum. Then it dawns on me: here I am reading a book all about how to live in the moment, and I have just experienced a walking, talking illustration!
Being in the moment is the only thing that little boy knows to be. Every baby step he takes is into uncharted territory, and curiously, he ventures forth with an enviable boldness born from not yet learning to be afraid. Every day presents a brand new adventure, complete with its bumps and bruises. Every new object is an unopened treasure, and every stranger he meets is a potential new best friend. Having no past to draw reference from, each moment is perceived for exactly what it is—uncluttered by expectation and prejudice—and it is there, in that sacred, silent space, between all that ever was and all that can ever be, where unconditional love truly lives and breathes.
My attention shifts back to my book, and although I look forward to finishing it, I now have a sense of already “knowing” the lesson it contains. Thanks to my young guide, I’ve discovered that while I can never go back to regain the innocence of my youth, I can retain my childish sense of wonderment by tossing all my preconceived ideas about life, love, and everything else out the window and starting each day from a fresh, blank canvas called joy.
And that in itself will be a wonderful journey, best to be enjoyed one “baby step” at a time.