SPRING SUNDAY: The Wishing Well—A Cautionary Tale

SPRING SUNDAY: The Wishing Well—A Cautionary Tale


“Don’t let him play so close to the edge!” I warned. “He’s fine,” said my husband. He gets frustrated by my helicopter parenting, the way I constantly hover too close, trying to protect the kids. “Okay,” I fumed. “But he’s gonna fall in.”


He emerged from the murky pond and fountain spitting out water, his eyes wide with horror. He can swim a little, but he’s only four years old and the weight of his clothes when wet and the sudden shock of being submerged terrified him. I plucked him up from the water by his shoulders and squeezed him to my chest. Some onlookers grinned and asked, “Did he get his wish?”

The pond and fountain were a “wishing well,” and moments earlier the kids had been making wishes excitedly as they pitched coins into it. There is something magical for kids about wishing. Their faces and hearts get light as they blow the seeds from a spent dandelion, or as they squeeze their eyes shut before blowing out birthday candles. These are the wishes of the innocent. These are the things that children imagine would make their already simple and perfect lives even better. I asked them later: my daughter wished that I would always say “yes” every time she asked for treats, and my son wished for a Lego set that no manufacturer will ever make (it was of his imaginary friend).

When we get older our wishes become more calculated, more intense. We wish for things that are still a little naïve, or even outlandish. We wish for someone’s cancer to go into remission. We wish for a winning lottery ticket. On our better days we boldly wish for world peace or happiness and health. On that day, I just wanted my son to emerge from the pond and still breathing, unscathed from the experience. At least that wish came true, I guess.

The magic of wishing comes from the audacity of it. We really do have everything we need, and everything we truly need is within our ability to create or earn. But there’s always something more we would like to have. We would like for the universe to conspire in our favor and for some great blessing to come our way. It is enchanting to imagine something wonderful that could happen, some beautiful, miraculous or life-changing twist in our personal narrative.

But what we’re missing with all of this hope and desire is the opposite emotion: gratefulness. We forget to be thankful for all the things that we already have. Our health, food, home, family, love. The basic things that we take for granted, like a dry child who has not fallen into a pond, and who is not afraid of the water or walking along the edge of it. There is no such thing as a “grateful well,” but if there were, it would be deserving of all our spare coins and earnest feelings. So today, instead of wishing for things that might make my life better, I’m going to put all my energy into this imaginary pond. Thank you universe, for all your blessings. I am sincerely grateful.



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