My grand­daugh­ter was unable to walk, but I found that to be fair­ly typ­i­cal among new­borns and no one seemed alarmed. For many month-long days, all Zoe learned to do was cry, eat, and sleep (not with any spe­cif­ic order or tim­ing). Then, with no coax­ing, she learned to do a baby-wig­gle which devel­oped into a squirm and began evolv­ing into an awk­ward slith­er once she learned to flip onto her bel­ly and see the world differently.

As mus­cles devel­oped and limbs were dis­cov­ered she found that crawl­ing was a faster and more effi­cient way of get­ting from one place to anoth­er. At this point in a child’s life, it seems uni­ver­sal that par­ents feel it nec­es­sary to ful­fill some unwrit­ten oblig­a­tion to teach the baby how to walk and thus they bring on all the stand­ing and hold­ing, coach­ing and coax­ing, all the plas­tic con­fab­u­la­tions of tubes on wheels with nets of dan­gling feet.

One day Zoe was sit­ting in the liv­ing room floor next to a large emp­ty box that once con­tained a microwave oven. She reached up, grasped the top of this box, and pulled her­self erect into a stand­ing posi­tion. Then, with­out fan­fare or announce­ment, this baby start­ed push­ing the box across the floor while squeal­ing with delight.

Everyone was ecsta­t­ic that this clever, auto­di­dac­tic child was teach­ing her­self to walk. Personally, I thought she was sim­ply learn­ing that a box can slide and that she could push it – walk­ing was just a side effect that she is not even aware of learn­ing. But Grandpas love their heroes and love watch­ing them dis­cov­er their superpowers.

The fol­low­ing weeks were filled with stut­ter­ing attempts with­out the box – the scuff-scuff-whomp, scuff-scuff-whomp, of con­tin­u­ing falls in fail­ure, but she did not yet have a pride­ful ego that could be bruised. Long past the time any adult would have shout­ed in frus­tra­tion, “I’ll nev­er learn how to walk!” and with­out any doubt or fear, she kept get­ting back up to try again. There was no goal or reward wait­ing and no idea what com­ple­tion would be. In fact, a baby does not even know the word ‘walk’ or have a con­cept of what it means. She sim­ply want­ed to get from one place to anoth­er. She per­se­vered in fol­low­ing her nat­ur­al instincts to find the way.

These days I have a vision of Zoe, like Moses, com­ing down from the moun­tain with the great wis­dom she has learned – nev­er need­ing to give a thought about walk­ing because it is now a part of her. I envi­sion her walk­ing into a class­room, a liv­ing room, or through a park as being every­thing she is becoming.

Following our nat­ur­al instincts are how we learn to love, feel empa­thy and com­pas­sion, and how to help one anoth­er, if we can hang onto the child-like inno­cence of dis­cov­ery, won­der, and per­se­ver­ance. We old peo­ple get kind of dopy about our grands, but I think every­one feels that all the world’s chil­dren are grand and we love how the hope in their eyes gives us hope.

  • Bernard Fraley

    Winchester native Bernard Fraley has worn many hats, includ­ing author, pho­tog­ra­ph­er, painter, poet, reporter, news­pa­per edi­tor, and more. Find some of his books on Amazon.