Hunting for Surprises

As we headed toward the park one day, my daughter and I were ready for the unexpected. It had been a slow afternoon, and Grace, who is six, had been angling for an outing. I suggested a trip to the town playground, but with a twist: while we were there, we'd look for surprising things. And we'd take our camera with us to capture them. She agreed and off we went.

The playground was deserted. That surprised me. It was an overcast spring day with a fitful, chilly breeze, but there was usually a handful of kids swinging or climbing on the brightly colored equipment. Not today. The park was ours.

We roamed, letting whims guide us. We explored the edge of the creek. We examined the hollow tree where we had once hidden “pirate treasure”. We slid down slides. Two large, fierce-looking spiders scuttled away from our peering eyes. But nothing stood out as unusual.

Then we saw it. A large, bright blue ball sat as if waiting for us on the wood chips near a play train. We scooped it up, and it quickly became a third member of our adventure team. As we played, I added more and more to the ball to personify it: Grace's jacket, then a stick through the sleeves, then a mud-drawn face. It looked vaguely like a better-dressed version of Castaway's volleyball. A second-hand cousin, perhaps?

Grace loved it. She particularly laughed as I pushed our new friend in a kiddie swing.

Everyday surprises are all around us, but often we're too busy to see them. It's good to make a conscious effort to hunt for them. Without them, our days can become so hum-drum. Ordinary. Blah. By looking for life's little unexpected touches, we train ourselves to regularly find delight in things around us. Mix surprise and delight and you have wonder. And wonder is essential to a healthy relationship with God.

Without thinking, we brought our ball friend home. The next day, however, I took him back and left him as we found him: nestled in the wood chips, waiting for someone to surprise.

Bruce Van Patter

all material ©2006 Bruce Van Patter