Two years ago Jamie and I took the boys to an egg hunt in Blacksburg. Jackson carried a blue plastic basket in one hand as his two-year-old self waited on the outskirts of the egg hunt zone. I patted his blonde head and asked, “Are you ready?” He smiled back at me, looking mostly perplexed. “When it’s time,” I explained, “you’re going to hunt for eggs! Pick them up and put them in your basket.” It sounded easy enough.
Eventually, a man entered a green field littered with hundreds of plastic eggs. He spoke for a few minutes reviewing a list of a few “do’s” and “don’ts.” Finally, he declared, “On your mark, get set, go!”
The kids were off. A mob of two and three-year-olds and their parents swarmed the field. Jackson took off at a snail’s pace. I followed closely, hustling him along. He spotted a nearby pastel egg and reached down to pick it up. “Put in in your basket!” I exclaimed. But he wouldn’t be side tracked. He had found an egg! His very own egg! He was enthralled. As he held up the blue egg for me and Jamie to see, a full smile delighted his round face. He shook it and listened to the rattle of a foreign body within its shell. He turned the egg over in his fingers as he inspected it carefully. He wanted to free its contents.
I remember being pulled in two directions as I stood beside him that day. On the one hand, I felt a little impatient. I wanted to tell him, “Put the egg in your basket and let’s keep going! There are more eggs to get, baby. C’mon, let’s go!” He was missing the point. And on the other hand, I felt like all my hustling might actually be stealing the joy of the moment. Maybe he was doing just what he needed to be doing as he stood pondering the egg and the mystery within it. Maybe I was missing the point. Maybe I should take a step back and just watch.
So I did. All around me I heard the excitement of kids and parents on the prowl for eggs. People were pointing and chasing and laughing. I watched as Jackson stood in the middle of the chaos examining his plastic egg. Eventually, he set it carefully in his basket and started looking for a second one. Then a third. After he placed the third egg in his basket, we looked around and all the eggs were gone. The field lay empty.
I wondered if the next phase of the egg hunt would entail a full scale melt down, but it didn’t. He was completely content to plop down in the grass with his three lovely eggs and savor the glory of them.
It struck me that day that quantity is not always the best measurement in life, that faster is not always better. Maybe the best measurement of an experience is our ability to fully engage with it. Maybe we can only do that when we slow down, when we listen to the call of our own hearts, when we tune out the hustle, when we savor the moment unfolding.
Somehow, adults have become hard wired to focus on having more, doing more and being more “busy” than we can pleasantly bear. Not surprisingly, we are an anxious, exhausted, and overburdened group. But kids don’t start out wired that way. They are curious. They are investigators. They delight in the process, not in their productivity.
This year, I’ll wander green fields again with a different two-year-old sidekick. Who knows what Parker’s egg hunting style will be. Maybe he will be fiercely efficient as he collects dozens of eggs or maybe he will snatch them from a little girl’s unattended basket. Or maybe, like his brother at that age, he will take a more laid back approach. I don’t know all that much, but I feel certain that I’ll remember to leave my hustle at home that day. Should he hold a yellow egg in his hand and shake it about, there will be no second guessing this time. I’ll crouch down to hear the rattle right along with him. Really, what’s all the rush about anyway? Childhood and parenting, Saturdays and Spring, chocolate and egg hunts are fleeting as it is.
Let’s be brave enough not to always push the limits of more and better and faster. Instead, let’s live well. Let’s know our own hearts and take good care of ourselves. Let’s know other’s hearts and care for them. Let’s live fully engaged with our people and our moments. The sum of these moments is uniquely grand. It all adds up to a life.