by Nate Hromalik

I love children. For a period of time—no matter how short—they possess an innocence unscarred by knowledge of evil in the world. I can only smile at the goofiness of children. This past Easter, the happiness of my three-year-old cousins lifted my cynical state of mind.
Rain pounded the windows outside, while bright pink and yellow decorations covered the dining table inside. Gathered at my aunt and uncle’s Cloverdale ranch, my family chatted comfortably over plates of deliciously cooked food. Somewhere in the distance, my cousins played.
Eventually, as always happened at these holiday meals, the small conversations became one. This time, the topic was the Catholic Church sex-scandal across Europe.
Before, as a kid too young to understand what the adults were saying, yet too old to leave the table, I yearned to be an adult. Now, my lack of participation was due to mature contemplation, not juvenile lack of understanding.
I wondered how something as evil as child molestation could exist in the world and take something irreplaceable from children: innocence. This malevolence made me sick; so I sat, quietly brooding at the wickedness of the world.
Suddenly, something miraculous happened. The giggling of my cousins grew into shrieks of delight, as they climbed on furniture wearing pairs of my aunts’ glasses. This caused all the adults to pause.
“Look at them,” beamed my aunt. Everyone smiled as they watched the two little princesses have the time of their life. I wished nothing more than to join them.
I can barely recall the time when I wanted to sit at the table and be considered an adult, because now I know the truth: wanting to be knowledgeable about the world is different than actually experiencing the loss of innocence that knowledge can create.
The other truth I now know is that people are like the cartoon characters in Peanuts: one day we walk around like Charlie Brown, with all the dialogue of adults sounding like muffled noise and pointless jargon. Yet over time, that muffled jargon begins to make sense, and we become the adults, sitting at a table, speaking of the troubles in the world.
Sometimes this transition is caused by a specific experience, like the loss of a loved one, or a trip to an impoverished country. Other times, people become who they are by simply living in a world full of daily headlines on war and terror. Either way, emotionally feeling these experiences is completely different than intellectually thinking about them.
Being informed about what occurs in the world, no matter how horrible, is necessary. However, I hope no child lives as I once did, wishing to be older; because while it can mean being more mature, it does not come close to the most beautiful concept the world has to offer: childhood innocence.