There is an article in Time Magazine by John Cloud on how children are flourishing despite their busy schedules. That is good news though it seems there is also a downside to their lives. "Not all the news is good. Young people have much higher rates of sexually transmitted disease than adults. And kids spend less time outdoors these days (only 25 minutes a week for the average 6-12-year old) and more time with Wiis and iPods."
I pause at that second statement wondering at such a generalization and how one would come to it. For one thing, it seems to me that just getting from transportation to buildings, most of us are outdoors 25 minutes a week. Surely there are other times children are outdoors, or are they dropped from garage to front door? Also, is that an average for the year? Surely children in summer are outdoors more than 25 minutes a week, so what does that say for winter? I'm not sure how one would average out kids across the country in different seasons and climates and come to this conclusion, but no matter what, it is sobering that children in that age group spend so much less time outside than we did. I'm glad I grew up when I did.
Contrast less than four minutes a day outside to a life like this as described by Anna Quindlen.
So here’s what I wanted to tell you today: get a life. Get a real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. Do you think you’d care so very much about those things if you blew an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast? Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over Seaside Heights, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over the water gap or the way a baby scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first finger. Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you.
I found one of my best teachers on the boardwalk at Coney Island maybe 15 years ago. It was December, and I was doing a story about how the homeless survive in the winter months. He and I sat on the edge of the wooden supports, dangling our feet over the side, and he told me about his schedule, panhandling the boulevard when the summer crowds were gone, sleeping in a church when the temperature went below freezing, hiding from the police amidst the Tilt a Wirl and the Cyclone, and some of the other seasonal rides. But he told me that most of the time he stayed on the boardwalk, facing the water, just the way we were sitting now even when it got cold and he had to wear his newspapers after he read them. And I asked him why. Why didn't he go to one of the shelters? Why didn’t he check himself into the hospital for detox? And he just stared out at the ocean and said, “Look at the view, young lady. Look at the view.”
And everyday, in some little way, I try to do what he said. I try to look at the view. And that is the last thing I have to tell you today, words of wisdom from a man with not a dime in his pocket, no place to go, nowhere to be. Look at the view. You’ll never be disappointed.
Anna Quindlen, from her commencement address at
Villanova University, February 8, 1999
Excerpted from the Heron Dance Book of Love and Gratitude