As I was home yesterday, I heard the voice of a child who was walking in the same direction with an adult just a few steps in front.
With his enthusiastic, high-pitched voice he asked, “Remember we went on a plane? And it was really, really high in the sky?”
Then just a few seconds later he asked, “Remember we saw a football match?”
And then a few seconds after that, “Remember we had spaghetti?”
A part of me wanted to keep walking the few steps behind them, even when I arrived at my place.
I wondered: What else might he remember? What else did he enjoy? And just how purely did he experience those things?
Odds are, he could recall all kinds of little details that most adults wouldn’t even register.
He may have remembered the long line at the airport, but he probably offset any annoyance with pure fascination over the plane outside his window.
He may have felt disappointed if his team lost, but he probably savored atmosphere, regardless, and couldn’t wait to describe what he saw.
He probably got messy with the spaghetti, but thought that was absolutely awesome.
And somehow, in his childlike memory, eating that pasta was just as worthy of remembering as flying in a plane.
Children have an amazing ability to recall all kinds of little joys, likely because they appreciated them in those moments in a way we often don’t as adults.
It’s partly about mindfulness; it’s hard to reminisce about simple pleasures if you weren’t really immersed in them when you experienced them.
But it’s also about how we internalise those events in the present.
Do we look back with excitement and wonder, remembering everything that made those moments magical? Or do we look back with disapproval and judgment, focusing instead on everything we felt was lacking?
Maybe the key to joy is learning not just to create it, but also to recycle it—to bask in all the good that has been and realize how fortunate we are for having known it.
In fostering this type of gratitude and awe, we increase our ability to recognise the joy that has happened and is happening right now.