Last weekend I kept my 16 month-old grandson at his home in the Texas Hill Country. Early each morning, we would make the rounds to his favorite play areas in the house. He loved climbing the stairs to look out the window for deer or for the neighbors’ dogs. He would beat on his toy percussion set for a while then suddenly jump up to roll a ball or pull a wooden train.
Eventually though the store-bought activities lost their appeal. It seemed the plastic giraffes and musical frogs were fun for a while, but they just couldn’t hold a toddler’s attention for a long time. Soon he was getting a little cranky.
As soon as it was warm enough, I’d put on his shoes, zip up his jacket and we’d head to the front yard. For an hour or more, he would pick up rocks and poke them into every hole and crevice he could find. He watched a lady bug crawl on a small shrub. He gathered twigs only to put them down again, and tried to strip the bark off a tree. At one point, his face brightened into a wide grin at the sound of birds in a nearby tree.
It got me to thinking about the soothing power of nature upon people, especially older adults who have stayed cooped up in a house or in an apartment or room of a senior residence. There’s something about being out in God’s creation that brings comfort, hope and inner peace. Before my 92 year-old mother passed away, she sometimes commented on the healing power of sunshine and a spring day. She loved to spend time on the porch where she could hear the birds and watch the clouds drift by.
I remember taking my almost-100 year-old uncle outside one day while visiting him at a nursing home. From inside his room, he had been watching roses bloom near the parking lot, but he didn’t have enough energy to roll himself outside. He said the staff didn’t have time to take him. So he sat inside, yearning to be in the fresh air. I rolled him out the front door and positioned him next to the red roses. I watched him lean in to take in the fragrance. It was a tender scene.
As spring quickly approaches, I can’t help but wonder about all the frail men and women who are desperate for someone to roll them outside and let them bask in the glory of nature. Who will take the time to push a wheelchair or walk alongside someone whose steps are slow? Let us always remember that there’s something about God’s creation that draws us close.