Tiny Mitch reached up to grab a door handle that stood just above his head. He had an almost tangible curiosity about him this day – so much so, he would have seemed mischievous if he wasn’t so innocent. With a soft tug, his chubby hand and tiny little fingers began to pull downward. If you were listening carefully, you could hear the old springs in the handle ping and poing as rusty mechanics began to move.
To an adult, this was just an ordinary doorknob. To this little boy, that golden handle was a gateway to endless curiosities just beyond the finger-smudged glass.
Tiny Mitch didn’t realize I was following him, so I kept my distance and zoomed in with my lens. By this time in his life, he was so used to sounds of my camera he had no idea I was shadowing him. I followed him because I wanted to keep my tiny boy safe from harm … but I was also curious to get a glimpse into his little mind and heart. “I wonder what he does when no one is looking …”, I thought to myself.
As the door opened, Mitch walked outside … and, like a good little boy, he closed the door behind him to keep the cold Wyoming wind from stealing away the warmth of the cabin. Then Mitch crawled backward from the edge of the old wood patio, down a few stairs and began to tromp on grass browned by an early winter’s chill. I waited patiently until his back turned, then I opened the door quietly and stepped outside. A kitty approached him and Mitch began to talk to it in ways only a 2-year-old can know. Softly he hugged his furry friend and kissed its head. I smiled at Mitchie’s goodness and wanted some of that to rub off on me. After a few minutes of furry love, Mitch began to walk toward a bush that was home to a little bird’s nest, or so it seemed. He got on his tippy toes as he pulled a branch down only to see an abandoned nest. He smiled softly, then turned to explore a pile of wood. He talked to himself and hummed nursery songs. At this moment, my heart broke open and poured out more love than it could possibly hold. I never knew how much love a heart could hold until that moment.
What I learned about little Mitch that day was how much he loved to be alive, even as a toddler. I also discovered anew how much little things matter. He found joy in the smallest of things. There wasn’t a flower he walked by that he didn’t lean in to smell softly. Not a furry pet he didn’t want to love, or a sunset admire. Mitch not only taught me how to love him, but how to love everything and everyone.
Later that night I knelt in prayer thanking my Father for the gift of little ones. I thought I had known love before I had a child. But, I soon discovered a love so deep that it changed me from the inside out. Completely. Even still, when I think I’ve reached the furthest depths of love for my children, I find that it continues to deepen with each passing day. How deep that love will go, I cannot say. I only know my love is deeper than it was yesterday.
If ever I am discouraged about a personal failure or disappointment, this image gives me hope. It reminds me that, in the grand scheme of things, we’re all toddlers reaching to open doors and make new discoveries. And though we may be imperfect, our Father sees us reach and try, and we are loved. That is no small thing.