Snowfalls, Red Crayons, and the habit of Passion

The snow is falling early and often here in southern Ohio. Most years we never see it before Christmas; this year it is being delivered in bunches. Nothing transforms the local winter landscape of dead leaves littering brown lawns, barren grey trees, and sunless skies like a good thick sparkling white layer of snow. It makes everything seem new to look out your window in the morning and find the world blanketed in the covers of winter. It is one of those mornings that makes you toss out your scheduled blog-post and write a brand new one! I read in a book (The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch) recently that we adults should carry a crayon in our pocket and smell it occasionally to encourage our childlike spirit of curiosity and creativity and to help us remember our passion. I thought it was a wonderful idea until I left a lone red crayon (my inspiration for a day of teaching and writing) in a forgotten pocket and tossed it unwittingly in the hamper. It ruined a couple of my favorite shirts and I went from feeling inspired to being really irritated and cranky. Nothing reminds me of childhood like peering out to see a substantial coat of snow.

In The Mockingbird Parables, I talk about the spiritual necessity of being “childlike” in many of the parables. I believe it is essential for people of faith to maintain the curiosity, wonder, and the natural sense of idealism that we possess as children. From Scout, Jem, and Dill, who pursue their questions and curiosity about Boo Radley, to Scout’s childlike honesty, to Dill’s natural sense of idealism and fairness that leaves him shaking his head at the adults of the town and their racism; it is the voice and the minds of the children that help drive the lessons of Harper Lee’s great novel.

Looking out at the snow this morning took me back for a moment to the 4th grade in Olathe, Kansas – one of my favorite snow days as a kid. It also reminded me of the joy we should find in our day to day. When I consider my friends that are changing the world or impacting culture, they seem to have one thing in common. From Blake, a successful radio producer with a passion for world missions; to Joe, a head basketball coach who is able to connect with his players teaching them lessons about true character: I find they approach their lives, their jobs, and their relationships with the same childlike fascination — the kind evoked by waking to a morning snow. They live as if they carry a crayon permanently attached to their nose. I believe these friends have formed a habit of approaching life in this way. Chances are, if you are experiencing a lack of passion in your work, in your life, or in your relationships, you are one step (one habit) away from getting it back. It might be just one question — one moment of wonder and curiosity — one snow day — or even one red crayon.

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