In thinking about the spiritual growth that often happens in children, I am reminded of a sense I sometimes have of having touched a hidden wellspring in a child. That was the way I described the experience the first time it happened with David. It seems to be related to inner growth, but not as permanent.
Usually when I worked with David, he struggled with concepts and tasks, trying to express himself, to find the right words and articulate them properly. At these times I would feel myself struggling along with him; his sense of effort was very real, almost palpable.
But there were other times, very special times, when his mind would simply open for him: concepts seemed effortlessly easy, tasks flowed, he spoke freely with an assurance and clarity of articulation beyond my usual experience of him. At these times, he seemed to be operating from a different level, where many of his normal hindrances and blocks simply didn’t exist. It was like looking at a clear spring of sparkling water that bubbled up-fresh, bright, clear, pure-from some hidden source deep within him.
I never knew the secret of how to tap that hidden wellspring in him or in any other child. I only knew how to recognize it, to delight in it, and to enjoy the beauty of the moment when it happened. I’m not sure parents or teachers were ever aware of these moments. David never talked about them, nor did any of other children whom I noticed having them.
With Albert, for example, they were wellspring moments, like the time when he first put together the doll house exactly as it was pictured on the box cover. He had gone about the task with sureness, brightness, directness, freedom, self-confidence. Supposedly retarded, he was assembling something I wouldn’t have been able to do in the short time he took. Diagnosed as having a short attention span and an inability to concentrate, he did the task with a surety and concentration which I would be challenged to match. I couldn’t explain it. But I watched it happen.
In order to notice the wellsprings in children, I think adults have to work very sensitively and intensely with them. Wellsprings may be detected in the subtle changes taking place in a child’s ability, performance, creative expression, body movements, and even posture.
For me, the gift in the wellspring experience is in knowing what it could be like for the child, knowing the potential really there deep inside.
It’s important to remember these wellspring experiences are only moments. If either you or the child expect things always to flow so well, you have very unrealistic expectations. On the other side of the coin, these miraculous moments remind you the there is something to hope for, more potential waiting to be realized.
Self-esteem is enhanced in children when they know they have such a capacity. Because they have experienced it, if only for a moment, they can know this potential is also a part of who they really are.
Self-Esteem Principle: When children’s self-esteem is growing, the hidden springs inside them trend to appear.