“Wow! Look at this!”
“Wait! I have to show you something.”
Children carry a natural capacity to see what is amazing in the world. They notice the smallest details. They want to share their discoveries.
One of the earliest rabbis, Rabbi Meir, suggested a person should try to have 100 of these moments every day.
What might happen if we approached our day seeking 100 moments of what is extraordinary, yet utterly ordinary, in our lives?
What if we would allow our young children, keen observers of the world, to lead the search, and show us what is waiting to be found?
And how might such an encounter – the search, the child’s find, the delight in sharing with another person – affect us? How often we push through a child’s moment of discovery, busy with the work of our lives. What might happen if we pause together, and honor the gift of noticing what the child offers?
One hundred such moments of connection, every day. How might children respond to 100 daily noticings, 100 sharings, as a routine part of their lives? How might we, in our lives?
And what is the power of 100? To a young child, 100 is 100,000. It is ten million. It is such an enormous number that it seems nearly impossible to count that high, and yet we can. And we marvel in counting so high.
Rabbi Meir’s “100” is a number so high the sheer enormity of it gives pause, in which we might draw a breath, exhale, notice, and share. Midway through our theme, Berakhah (Blessing), we set out to discover what might be found in 100 moments of a child’s, “Wow!”
Nursery and kindergarten children began exploring Berakhah through the blessings they may already have encountered in the world: berakhot (blessings) before and after eating, berakhot on Shabbat and with Jewish ritual items.
We soon introduced children to the idea that when you find something amazing in the world, that moment might also be a time for a berkahah. The early rabbis offered us berakhot for seeing a rainbow, hearing thunder, smelling wonderful scents, and many other natural wonders. Children were captivated by our invitation to look outside and find something that makes them feel, “Wow!” inside. We shared a berakhah children could make when they feel that feeling. Children drew pictures of what they noticed outside, and they traced shapes they discovered through the window. InYetzirah (art/creativity studio), children collaborated on a large-size landscape that made them feel, “Wow!”
Meanwhile, children continued to explore berakhot in many ways. Children played out Jewish times they might make berakhot, like in synagogue and at Chanukah. Children sorted magnetic pictures of berakhot into categories (berakhot for food, Jewish ritual, and the natural world). Children played five steps of food production, from growing and harvesting food all the way to our tables; Wow! food might have to go a long way to get to us, and how glad we are to have it! Hebrew play included plenty of “Bet for Berakhah” hunts, as we searched high and low for the Hebrew letter bet (even in the Torah!), and older children grew proficient at recognizing and writing the word berakhah.
Based on children’s ongoing interest in connecting with the berakhot about natural wonders, we began to imagine how children might respond to Rabbi Meir’s suggestion that we make 100 berakhot every day. How easy it might be for the children to find 100 different moments of amazement!
We headed outside. Our natural explorers reveled in being outside.Children’s eyes darted around as we took a minute to activate all our senses (no tasting, please!), and then we were off. Immediately, four children climbed into a tree and stayed, exploring the tree for over 20 minutes, sharing exclamations, observations. At first, children required prompting: what do you notice? what makes you feel, “Wow!” We responded with our own genuine amazement at children’s finds, and an invitation to make a berakhah. Sometimes we made a berakhah, sometimes not. The actions – searching, noticing, sharing – were according to our design, but the experience was not yet organic.
Then, something shifted. The children calmed. Even though we were in many sections of the field, children’s voices gentled. They began approaching grown-ups without prompting, as if they understood that we had dedicated this time to listening, to offering our full attention to children’s finds. In this trust, our experience opened. Now children sought us out to show us what they found extraordinary in the world. They spun their bodies, rolled on the grass, ran as fast as they could, touched trees, rubbed their hands with snow. They crouched to examine wood chips, run soft hands over moss, stood still gazing at the light in trees, reached sticks to touch the tops of buildings. They shared discoveries with each other, and with us. Now children led. When we finally went inside, all of us were calm.
In the days following our initial experience outside, several different groups of children headed outside to search for more moments of “Wow!”. Every time, children offered new moments of connection, new amazing finds. We collected the experiences in photos, transcribed children’s words, and brought children’s objects into the room to continue to explore them. Now, wherever we went, children found things and ideas that amazed us all. We noticed that as we got further into our 100 moments project, we took more time to recognize these spontaneous moments in our day.
Something had shifted in all of us. Children and grown-ups alike were more attuned to seeing what is extraordinary in our world. The small details that often do not rise to our conscious attention – the dark tree branches against the clouds, a child’s smile, the calming as we lean against each other – all of these moments became visible. And each new momentary awareness of what is special, and completely usual, in our lives, brought with it a pause in which we might breathe appreciation, thankfulness, joy. One hundred moments of noticing what is amazing in our daily lives.
Rabbi Meir’s “100” is the poetry of berakhah (blessing). The echoes of these moments of connection reverberate inside us: our shared joy in seeing the colors of leaves, the swirls of tree bark; the rush of affection in a hug; a shared wonder about a loose tarp corner flapping in the wind; the discovery of one’s body, and in moving one’s body to spin, to leap, to climb. The moments of noticing linger on the edges of our daily routines, provoking a cascade of awareness for the berakhah (blessing) in our lives. Wow.