On what he thought was his deathbed, a well-known rabbi, Abraham Joshua Heschel, whispered to a friend at his bedside: “Sam, never once did I ask God for success or wisdom or power or fame. I asked for wonder, and he gave it to me.”
I read these words, sitting on a bench outside on my lunch break. I keep reading and then I trail off, set my book down, look up and around me. Staring down at the fountain bubbling out of the the cool stone ground at my feet, I pick up my things and move down to the ground. Time to indulge my inner child. But not just that, to remember the genuine, simple wonder of that child. My shoes and socks come off and my feet relish the slight coolness of the water breaking gently around them.
I close my eyes briefly and notice. The sun warming my shoulders. The hint of cool in the breeze, lifting the ends of my hair and tugging them gently to one side. The sound of the wind, the laughter of children down the way, eating lunch.
I open my eyes and see. The bubbles forming in the cracks of the fountain, then swept away downstream in mini rapids. Two little children walk behind me on the stone bench I’d originally sat on. When is it that we stop walking on benches and choose the ground instead? I remember when the ground was lava. Now it’s just an ordinary means of transportation.
And I think, isn’t this the journey I’ve been on the past months? To rediscover wonder? To lose myself in the scent of a rose, in the colors of a sunset, in the swirl of the clouds at midday, in the sight of a dog with its head out the window and its tongue flapping happily in the wind, in the laughter of a child, in the old man and woman holding hands, in the roar of thunder, in the taste of a meal, in the continual giving thanks for ordinary gifts full of extraordinary love?
I lift up a prayer and remember the rabbi’s words. God, give me wonder. And I hear an answer echoed in my heart, in the wind, in the water, in the sun, in the children around me: I am.