I remember clearly one spring day when I was four. The sun was warm, the air still a bit cool, but there was that hint of new life that raises our hopes after a long, cold winter. Someone had started to build a house in the vacant lot next to where we lived in a suburban neighborhood of rented duplexes. The construction crew had left a pile of dirt from excavating the cellar.
I was playing in the dirt pile using my toy steam shovel to scoop up the earth, put it into one of my toy dump trucks and haul it to a place where I was making a new pile. Anyone who has parented a young boy knows that boys can continue happily in this kind of activity for hours. All I know is that it fed some need in me and comforted me.
Perhaps the earth provided a sense of connection, a sense of being part of something larger, of belonging. In moving the earth to reflect my will, I gained a sense of power, a sense that I could affect what happens to me. I could improve my circumstances as well as improve the world around me.
Then, I remember, I paused in my play and looked around. There was a tractor off in the distance plowing a field in preparation for spring planting. I felt the warmth of the sun and sensed the new life bursting forth. I knew there was a bigger world out there, a friendly world, a world I wanted to explore, a world I could help shape in ways I couldn't even imagine. But I knew it was all good.
I'm at the other end of life now. I know, or think I know, a lot more about the world and how it works. It's not always the friendly place I had imagined that spring day. But when I get discouraged about the world and all its troubles, I go back to that dirt pile and visit that little boy. I remember that moment when the world was good, when I knew I belonged, when I knew I could do great things. And I am renewed.