A Child’s Gift

Tarn and I often become informal naturalists, interpreting nature’s wisdom for the benefit of folks we randomly meet along the trail. Today we connect with a young family—mom, dad, and two youngsters. The children must be about three or four years old and have the benefit of being down at the level of wildflowers. We talk with them about bitterroot (lewisia rediviva) and wild onion (allium). The kids seem intrigued by these strangers offering gifts of science and indigenous knowledge.

The little girl picks a leaf from a nearby sagebrush plant and offers it to me. Her parents tell her not to pick the foliage as we are in a national park. I acknowledge the truth of their guidance but also gratefully receive the gift from a child’s heart. I get down to the ground and speak kindly to the girl. “When we take something from nature, it is important to thank her for the gift,” I said. The tiny human then walks over to the sage and says, “Oh, thank you very much for giving me this gift.” Her expression is so natural and sincere.

Watching this simple expression of gratitude brought me to tears. It just shows we need to be reminded once in a while to acknowledge the gifts we receive. It is very important to encourage children (and adults) to have a respectful relationship with nature, to recognize their kinship with all things. The laws of nature are inseparable from the Dharma, the innate wisdom of our original childlike heart. As Buddha said, “When you wish good for others, good things come back to you. This is the law of nature.” 


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