“Oh, wow!” she kept saying, in that breathless sort of wonder that can be heard only in the voice of youth and innocence. “Oh, wow!” Her tiny nose and hands pressed against one store window and then another. She pointed to counter after counter filled with candy. And then several displays of plastic eggs. And scenes of stuffed bunnies and yellow chicks and woven baskets of every size. Even a stack of nothing more than colorful socks caused her to express delight. “Oh, wow!” she said, again and again, as her tiptoes carried her from place to place, store to store, joy to joy.
She is only two-and-a-half years old, perhaps a bit closer to three. But she is brilliantly new to the world; fresh with quickened senses and anticipation. Her name is Jane. And she was visiting my neighbor – her grandmother – just before Easter. I was delighted when Jane and her mother and grandmother invited me to come with them to explore downtown Aiken for their first time.
Still, I had not expected the joy it would be to watch Jane – as she reminded everyone around her about authentic awe and curiosity, as she exampled for us how to appreciate the wonders that are often at the ends of our own fingertips, at the tips of our own noses.
It wasn’t only the sparkle and glam of the stores that caught Jane’s enthusiasm. There was also a giant painted horse statue in the Center for the Arts, and pinecones filling the ground everywhere she looked. There was one large friendly dog by the name of Quincy, and dozens of others to meet and greet on practically every street corner. “Oh, wow!” she said to each of them.
I suspect that most of us have something in our lives, or in the world around us, that can still bring us to that feeling of “oh, wow!” It may be simply kneeling in a garden with the sun soft on our backs. Or the sight and sound and smell of horses. Perhaps it is the joy of creating art or music or dance. Perhaps the perfect sunset or the perfect golf swing. For me, it’s often old books or abandoned buildings, as well as deep silent forests and warm rhythmic ocean waves (and, of course, wet dog noses and cats with attitude).
But I can also be “wow’d” by the less tangible – such as hearing or reading one true thing. And the wisdom of native peoples and the very young. I can be wow’d by a unique turn of phrase that makes me think, and a phrase of music that makes me cry. And there are the universal “wows” of treasured smells that seem to speak to all of us – fresh cookies and bread, the rain, our mother’s skin.
Lately, however, I find that I am most “wow’d” by unexpected kindnesses; by unbriddled compassion; by uncontained love. I am awed by grace and generosity beyond reason, by peacemakers and diplomats.
Watching Jane that lovely day in downtown Aiken, I began to examine all the potential and deserving “oh, wows” there really are in life – if we remain open to them. And I began to suspect that perhaps they aren’t always meant just for us to experience. Perhaps there are moments and opportunities when we are meant to be the “wow” in someone else’s life. Perhaps, in the end, those are the “wows” that should matter the most – whatever age we are.