KIDS SAY THE DARNDEST THINGS (THANKS MR. LINKLETTER!)
David C. Hughes
Art Linkletter, prolific author and motivational speaker, was best known for the segments on his early television show “House Party” where he asked kids questions and got back candid and sometimes hilarious responses. Mary and I have discovered since Hannah’s birth five years ago that we live “House Party” every day; how can you not when you have a kid?!
The girl makes us laugh, from her constant silliness (mostly eruptions of random noises, whistles, and eardrum-busting squeals while imitating various animals, especially squirrels) to her rabid independence when dressing herself (in leopard-print tights, polka-dot sweater-shirts, and neon-glowing socks) to her spontaneous creativity with construction paper, Scotch tape, scissors, and imagination. But what continuously amazes us is her capacity to sling hysterical one-liners that can sometimes outdo the best stand-up comedian. If a sense of humor is a sign of intelligence, Hannah’s IQ must be 200.
One evening recently, I sat at the kitchen bar while Mary finished prepping sides for dinner. The grill was heating up outside, and I was waiting for Mary to indicate the salad and potatoes were to a point where I could throw the steaks on. Suddenly a knock came from the foyer and Hannah came running into the living room, announcing someone was at the door. By now Mary and I have gotten pretty proficient at identifying fake knocks from real ones (especially because fake knocks don’t sound at all like the doorbell ringing, but the dogs haven’t figured that out yet), so Mary hollered “I’m not opening the door for anyone, except the Christ.” Hannah ran back into the foyer, turned around and ran back, announcing with a big smile “Yep, it’s Jesus, all right!” If Mary had had water in her mouth it would have spewed all over the mashed potatoes.
Not long ago Mary drove her sister Laura, brother-in-law Scott, and Hannah into Fort Worth to do some shopping in preparation for Laura’s 50th birthday party. While in the Texas Christian University area, they decided to stop in to grab a bite of lunch at Fuzzy’s Tacos on Berry Street. After lunch, Mary pulled the Traverse onto Berry with the intention of doing a U-turn at the next intersection, but after turning and moving all the way over to the left-hand turn lane, she realized she couldn’t make a U-turn at that junction. She voiced her opinion of the situation loud enough for Hannah to hear, and Hannah quickly defused the situation: “Mama,” she said, “I’ll keep an eye out for cops while you do a U-turn.” Hannah was four at the time.
Earlier this year, while I was attending the Gateway Men’s Summit at Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, I received an urgent text message from my wife: “Hellllpppp!” it said. “Disaster on the farm! Please call.” At dinner I finally had a chance to call back, and learned from my very distraught wife that our border collie, Dot, had somehow nudged her way into the chicken yard and herded all three of our chickens to heaven. A few days after the burial, without thinking, I asked Hannah “What sound does a chicken make.” “Bock,” she replied. “I’m dead.”
As I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again: kids are like cats—they have one foot on earth and another in heaven (but with cats, the other two feet are in hell). I’m convinced Hannah feels the pulse of heaven continuously, and she lives, moves, and has her being in a joyfulness that definitely defies circumstances (like her sometimes grumpy daddy and her sometimes impatient mommy). When it comes to joy, Hannah is the teacher and we world-weary adults are the students—to watch her play house with her stuffed animals, to participate in an entire gymnastics competition outlined in chalk on the back porch, to try to outdo each other with made-up stories and impromptu silly songs while in the car, to watch her entertain herself for hours with nothing but 300 pounds of sand, a handful of old seashells, and a faded plastic shovel—THAT is a continual lesson on what it means to live out God’s Kingdom here on earth. If only we beat-down adults could take it to heart and live the same way, wouldn’t life be so much more fun? So filled with joy? So much less serious and more heaven-like?
Jesus himself instructed, in no uncertain terms, that God’s Kingdom is best demonstrated by children:
“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.’”
–Matthew 18:1-5 (NIV)
Trust, playfulness, imagination, creativity, enjoying each other, not taking ourselves so damned seriously. Those are the keys to heaven, both here on earth and in our legacy beyond. Art Linkletter died in 2010 at age 97. He made a career out of imagination and with interacting with children. I’m convinced he knew the secret to joy. “I’ve been around long enough to develop some insights,” he told the Orlando Sentinel in 2007, “Don’t retire, become a ‘seniorpreneur,’ keep a positive outlook, and maintain your sense of humor.” Amen, brother Art. Amen!
Copyright © 2013 David C. Hughes