Location: Richmond, Virginia
Weather: 45 and sunny
I’m back at the seminary where my husband and I started our marriage. Serendipitously, we were given a room in the same building where we lived the first two years in our life together. This time we are participating in a conference entitled “What Is Imagination?”
Among other things that stir my brain, I am impressed by the way imagination and creativity can energize us. (“A ten-hour day is more likely to fill you than to drain you when you have a passion for the work,” said one textile artist.) Ah-ha, there’s another meaning to “resting” other than simply the cessation of activity. It’s reinvigorating. Some kinds of work energize our minds and spirits at least until our bodies demand attention.
But I was most interested in what I gleaned from the conference on the development of our styles of work and rest during childhood. Paul Harris, a professor of children’s psychology at Harvard, presented some interesting research, pointing out that around age 5 children adopt the language of Testimony or the language that leads to knowledge of things and people not present to the senses. They easily adopt language and beliefs about God, and by the age of 6, their belief in prayer begins to escalate rapidly.
Some of the questions this raised for me, and perhaps for you if you write for children, are:
What words do we want very young children to know?
How do we best encourage prayer among those six-year-olds?
What kind of fiction do we create for middle-graders who are growing up in a world we could hardly have imagined a few years ago?
No, I haven’t taken off on a totally unrelated point, though it may be tangential. This conference and the questions it raised made me think about the way children can energize us if we are absent from their world too long. Talking with them, answering their questions (“Who made God?”), laughing at their riddles, setting limits for them–all this can be really enriching if we don’t have too much of it day after day. If they know when bedtime comes, it’s time for sleep. And maybe for us as well–right after we jot down some notes on what we’ve learned from those who are from the Kingdom of Heaven.