Spend some time with a three or four year old child and it won’t take long to learn the power of a good question. If you listen to such a child and they haven’t already had the wonder in their spirit crushed by some adult who was aggravated by their sense of wonder and pushed it back to them or even made them feel there was something wrong with them asking a thousand questions, they will amaze you. Unfortunately my grandchildren have all grown past this time of their lives and now don’t have so many questions. Sometimes though there are still some glimpses of those earlier times when they want to know why things are as they are or how something works that they have just focused on.
So, go back with me to those wonder years when I was their answer man and they were filled with questions. Since we have nine grandchildren I have a great deal of material to work with. One day quite a number of years ago, one of the boys who are now 17 was spending the afternoon with his grandparents. We lived close to a lake and so we walked to the lake. Instinctively I picked up a flat rock and sailed it bouncing across the lake. At first he didn’t say anything. He just picked up a rock of his own that tried skipping it. But it plunged into the water. He tried another, then another but had so success. “Papa, how did you do that?” I found another of the flat rocks and showed him the kind of rock I was getting. Then I pulled him close and took his right arm and showed him how to throw it so the rock would skip. Of course, at three years of age it wasn’t going to do much skipping and wasn’t going far. But, as is normal with a boy that age, there was no stopping the effort. As long as there were rocks laying around he was ready to fling them into the lake. As the day progressed, he improved. But I explained in the years to come, you will get stronger and can throw the rock further and it will skip across the lake.
Another one of the grandkids was walking with Linda and me down by the lake, when a couple of geese came close to us, making lots of voice, wanting something to eat. We didn’t have anything with us to feed them, but it was obvious that someone had been feeding them because they just kept following us, doing their best to let us know what they were there for. The granddaughter asked, “Why do those big birds keep following us making all that noise?” It had seemed like fun to begin with. But the Noise was getting irritable and she was ready for them to go on their way and leave us alone. I explained to her that when people feed animals like the geese they usually think they are doing something good. But the truth is the animal learns to come to that place over and over again expecting food to be there. They associate the presence of people with being fed. If it goes on often enough the bird loses it’s ability and motivation to dig or work for food and stops being able to do the things that are natural for it to do. I went on to talk about the fact it is possible for us to do things in almost every area of life that seem good to us when they are being done, but they often result in doing lots of harm.
It is usually the “Why” questions that challenge and maybe even annoy at times. You’ve probably heard them from your own children or grandchildren. Here are a few that I remember from ours. “Why did God make snakes and bugs that bite and sting? If God gives us babies why do we have to go to the hospital to get them? Where did God keep the babies before he put them into mom’s stomach? Where does God go on vacation? Papa, are you afraid of the dark? From one of the granddaughters, “Why did God make boys so different?”
Why do children have so many questions? Is it because they are learning so much while young that it is always leading to more questions that open up their minds for constant learning? Probably a better question is “Why do we lose that curiosity?” Somewhere down the line we tend to stop asking more questions and settle with what we know now. The problem with doing such is that we soon begin to forget more and more of what we have learned. Then when we lose some on one end and stop taking more and more information on the other end it leads to us grasping less and less. It seems to me that it would be great if we could hold on to the sense of wonder and questioning all of our lives. It would mean constant learning so that even when we forget a few things we are taking on more all the time so the cumulative results are good.