Celebrating the infectious exuberance of youth

Celebrating the infectious exuberance of youth

What keeps us young? Well, certainly eating healthy foods, exercising and sleeping are all on that list.

But there’s something else that works, too. If you can, try hanging out with a group of younger people at a party, even if the music is loud and incomprehensible.

At a recent party, I wasn’t sure what my daughter was saying, as I watched her sing every word with her eyes wide open and her hands fluttering at her sides like a butterfly’s wings.

It’s as if both of my children have sped up the needle so fast on their speech that I suspect that what’s coming out of their mouths probably started out as distinct words at some point. I’m hoping that the message they are repeating isn’t something offensive or objectionable, like, “Environmental regulation is bad, so let’s put the fox in charge of the hens at the Environmental Protection Agency. Go fox, Go fox, Go fox.” No, wait, this isn’t about politics.

A room full of children at the party, held by a family friend, made me think a bright scientist may one day figure out how to harness that energy, store it and release it at just the right time, either when someone needed to warm a house or a heart.

The next generation seems to follow a simple formula: Why walk when you can run, skip or flip, why talk when you can shout and why stay on the ground when you can challenge gravity to hold you down?

I recognize that loud parties filled with perplexing music may not be everyone’s cup of tea. The decibel level may damage hearing aids, destabilize pacemakers, or rattle fillings or dentures.

You don’t need to attend a kids party, especially if you weren’t invited to one, to share the exuberance of youth. Have you stopped your car on the way back along familiar routes to watch a T-ball baseball game, to listen to a chorus singing music you might know, or to watch a marching band trying to master John Philip Sousa while figuring out what yard line they’re supposed to be on when they reach the high notes?

All that energy begets energy. I’ve heard people talk about how their children keep them young. Imagine multiplying that, even for a day or a few hours, by however many kids are celebrating the moment in a way that doesn’t get bogged down in blinking Blackberries, a pending deadline or a need to disappear into the immobile ether of the television.

And if you’re fortunate enough, you can engage with some of the next generation in questions they raise about the world. Many of us think we are pretty knowledgeable. That may be the case, until a child asks us a question we can’t answer. Of course, we could rush to the internet to find an answer we might soon forget, or we could try to inch our way to an answer or even revisit a question we hadn’t pondered in years.

I’m sure teachers feel the same kinds of highs and lows that appear in so many other jobs. They have to discuss the Magna Carta year after year, or explain how the change in Y over the change in X represents the slope of a line.

But, then, every once in a while, a student may ask a new question that brings the material to life and gives the teacher an opportunity to learn from the student. The best answers inevitably lead to the next best questions.

Energy, insight, curiosity and joy don’t exist solely in the world of youth, but they are often easier to spot among a group of children whose joie de vivre lifts off at a party.