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The lesson might just be to shut up and smile

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By Michael O'Hare
Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, 8:58 p.m.

On Sunday morning the snow on the hill in the backyard was nearly pristine but for what appeared to be a few deer tracks.

By Sunday evening not a bit of it was untouched, filled with footprints, slid tracks and piles of snow. And I might say, it was more beautiful.

Much comment is made about the innocence of children.

In addition to witnessing what changed the snow in the yard on Sunday, I concluded that innocence is not the right way to describe what children have.

Oh, sure, they are innocent of much of what the world holds, and we adults think that is good for them but that it would be bad for us.

But what children really have that we so-called adults don't have is the ability to do things without care, or in other words with complete concentration on the moment, what they are doing in it and without any necessary assessment of it being positive or negative or anything in between.

When daughter Shana called Saturday to ask if she and husband Rob could bring the girls up to sled ride on Sunday we said :”sure” and invited them to stay for dinner. Our son Ryan was visiting, too.

I always say the hill that is our backyard is really only good for sled riding in winter and bird watching in the warm months.

I had to work later in the day on Sunday, but knew I would enjoy a few hours watching the girls play. I didn't realize then how it would touch me and Mary Ellen.

The impromptu day was as good as any planned holiday!

After a long time at sled riding and the building of two snowmen, a smaller one I helped a little with and a larger one on which Rob lead the creation, the girls came in for some hot chocolate and snacks and then went back out.

I didn't watch what they did initially, but then when I looked out each of them was in a different part of the yard, each either sitting or prone on the snow and quite absorbed in whatever they were doing with the snow, uninterested in the other.

It was a picture of utter concentration, totally involved in whatever had struck their fancy. It was, in another way of thinking, complete serenity.

There was a spark of adulthood when the dog, Cami, started to wander away and when the girls were called and asked to bring her back the two older girls had a bit of a disagreement about who would go. But that was resolved quickly when Cami wandered back to them.

Small, insignificant things, to be sure. Yet, they are the perfect things.

What do we lose as adults that takes us out of the picture at times? It is not about innocence.

Perhaps children just have, and we have lost, that freedom of being spontaneously pulled into life's mysteries. Adults need, too often, to assess what we are doing, even asking ourselves: Are we happy?

Or like a person rapidly snapping away with a camera, we are thinking of how we will tell others about how much fun we had, while missing the fun we are having. Children certainly do not do that, in fact rarely do they offer a post-play wrap up. It is only the adults who says dumb things such as: “Did we have fun?”

So what shall I take from this Sunday event. I could come up with lots more observation, lots more assessment of childhood and adulthood.

Instead, the lesson might just be to shut up and smile, and even having said that is too much.

Meandering appears on Fridays. To share your thoughts on this column (or on most anything) with News Editor Mike O'Hare, write to the Leader Times, P.O. Box 978, Kittanning, PA 16201 or via e-mail to

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