We need more dirty children. I don't mean messed up in the head kind of dirty, I mean actually physically covered in dirt and mud kind of dirty. Kids should be so dirty that they don't need to be bribed to take baths. They will need to take a bath, and they will know it. We need more dirty children because dirty children are fearless and our world is depending on fearless decisions.
When we are babies and toddlers, every one of us is messy, dirty, and sticky. Then, somewhere along the way, a group of us decides to clean up our acts, and become cautious, rule-following, clean kids. Don’t get me wrong, being cautious and clean are important traits to have in society. But dirty kids can learn to be cautious when they need to be; it is much harder to learn to be fearless.
I played outside all the time as a kid. My parents are very into gardening (lol Connecticut) and when they were out, I was out. I would construct little houses out of twigs and leaves for trails of ants that passed me in the garden. I would sit on the soft fallen needles under our one clump of pine trees and pretend I was a deer, nestled in my home for the day. I would climb out onto the mossy boulder in the middle of the brook and watch the water bugs dance over the slow current. [Side Note: Because they walked on water, I called them little Jesus bugs; best thing to come out of my Sunday school class for sure.]
I know what you are thinking: Wow, that is so not fearless. [scoff scoff]
And you are right, I was not a dirty kid. I was more of a smudged kid. Like a towel after three uses, you could never see my dirt, but I should probably still be washed anyway. I utilized my time outdoors to explore nature, grow my imagination, and observe the world around me. I used to sit and watch the birds fly in and out of their houses, wondering what they were talking about, and dreaming of what it might feel like to fly. Outside is where I learned to observe and imagine. It makes sense that I grew up to be a writer–the ultimate recorder and constructor of worlds. It turns out that who we grow up to be is often reflected in who we were as children. That is why clean kids will grow up to be cautious and dirty kids will grow up to be brave.
But whether you are clean or dirty, cautious or brave, everyone can grow up to be strong. The strongest people I’ve ever met aren’t always fearless; what they are, is 100% sure of who they want to be. They know their strengths and, more importantly, they know their weaknesses. They know their values and their goals, their limits and their abilities. These are the hardest things to know about yourself, but the key to finding the answers might be right outside your door.
Being outside means spending time testing your limits, learning to follow your gut, and trusting your instincts. Outside, you are not given the luxury of a cushion. It is just you and nature–a raw relationship where you're responsible for only yourself. I know I owe a lot of my confidence and self worth to the time I spent outdoors. Out there is where I learned that a blade of grass was worthy of an hour of curiosity and 500 words of description. Out there is where I found that I have a voice to show people what I see. For us all, the world outside is where we learn to be who we truly are–where we learn to be fearless. If we have any chance of tackling the issues our world faces today, we all need to be fearless. That, is why we need more dirty children.