A Miracle Moment

“Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Warm weather makes me irrationally happy, especially when exists in the middle of February sandwiched in by days below freezing, much like the unexpected, tranquil eye of the four-month long Winter storm. Having 8:30am class four days a week, taking six credits, and being a new RA, while super conducive to learning and developing a broad range of what Duke and life has to offer, is not nearly as conductance to sleep and personal wellness. I am fortunate enough to love at least most of what I do. I am also lucky be able to take classes, commit to work and live in places that not only value and personal reflection and mindfulness, but teach affective ways to do it. Accordingly, during any day, I make time for myself. Time to decompress, time to reflect, time to feel fulfilled. Time today was spent in the Duke Gardens.

The sun, still shining, had waned in strength just enough to allow the twenty or so children running around with a soccer ball fruitlessly trying to captivate the attention of the dog sitting loyally by its owner to do so without breaking much of a sweat. The open field full of luscious green grass that kindly, and indiscriminately invites Duke students and Durham residents, adults and children, animals and flowers, old memories and new times to share the present moment. It is liberating. Barriers that exits daily, either systemic, idiosyncratic, geographic, linguistic, or demographic are overcome in this open field, a place that views all as equal and impedes upon none. Whatever someone takes from this moment only adds to what they give and what is available for others to take with them. In moments like these miracles occur. Despite the miracle being small and short (lasting a mere few seconds), they occur. I am a witness.

My miracle moment today lasted a mere twenty minutes, but within those few minutes came a lifetime of revelation. As I observed the “game” of soccer in front of me, I thought of a quotation from Eric Schrode “there is a naivety in youth that is incredibly beautiful.” How is it that children, far less learned and wise and discerning than their adult parents, embrace life with an unparalleled energy, an energy they are willing to share with others equally? This paradox is fascinating especially bearing in mind that the further I go in education, the more I learn and can appreciate the value of diversity and the universality of certain characteristics of humanity. I suppose young-adults and adults need to take a step further than appreciating though, we need to fully embrace. I sat with my thoughts for a minute continuing to observe the field and its children. It is the combination of the open field and energetic children that creates a powerful challenge to any societally structured hierarchy. All the children cared about was where the soccer ball was kicked (not who kicked it), and how far away they were from the dog (despite it still showing the children little concern) …

 I looked down at my phone, realized how much time had past, and was flooded by reality. I had a meeting to attend, so I quickly gathered my belongings and prepared to leave my paradise.

Arriving just on time, I switched into “business mode” as the meeting was focused on start-up consulting… on adding value to new businesses. While I find these conversations intriguing, I couldn’t help but ponder what the value of my time in the Gardens was. When I’m at work, my time has a clear value, when I am consulting start-ups, I am adding value to the world; however, when I am quietly reflecting in the gardens, what value-add am I contributing? From a traditional economic, GDP-based perspective, my time in the Gardens was worthless. In fact, from looking at the opportunity cost (that time could have been spent doing homework, or working, or researching), it is possible to conclude that my time in the Gardens created negative value. But that’s not how I felt.

My mind shifted back to the open field, the soccer “game” and the dog. I recalled how comically serious the soccer “game” was taken, how happy the children were when they got the ball, how it appeared that, from the children’s perspectives, within the ball contained everything essential to life, all the business meetings, all the homework, all the potential research was somehow wrapped up and rolling around in a hollow ball… They were living life to the fullest. Perhaps our “adult” understanding of value needs some tweaking. The way we place value on our time should include moments of meditation, of reflection, of fun.

University life restricts my interactions with young children. And, it is in moments like these that I recall how much they have to teach young-adults and grown-ups alike. What a powerful statement these children were unknowingly making. Although it was a quiet statement, it was one that screamed in the slightly anxious faces of supervising parents hoping their child would remain uninjured. Although I’m not a parent, I was lucky enough to hear this quiet, screaming statement. It said to live is to laugh is to love. And even if just for a moment, love and fulfillment carry an incredible amount of value. So much is their value that they alone can transcend barriers society works so hard to maintain. It said wisdom knows no age. And then, after such a significant statement, after a miracle moment, after a memory that I hope will be ever sustained there was silence. And, I returned to my business meeting, business as usual, but with a newfound realization, a new way to define value in my life. I returned to my meeting with the memory of a miracle moment.

miracle moment

Andrew Carlins is a Master of Management Studies student at Fuqua from Oceanside, New York. His research interests involve the intersection of immigration, economic integration, and religion. During the GradEngage Fellowship, Andrew will work with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and Beth El Synagogue in Durham to explore ethics and the pursuit of purpose during COVID-19 across three generations. Andrew has a B.S from Duke where he studied Economics, History, and Jewish Studies and graduated with honors and distinction.

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