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Lessons from the Zoo Train

My son Nathan loves riding the Zoo Train. We live very close to the Milwaukee County Zoo, so when Nathan plays outside and hears the Zoo Train whistle, he lights up and yells “ZOOO TRAIN!!”

Nathan on the Zoo Train

Any visit to the Zoo must always begin with a pilgrimage to the Zoo Train. It's just the way it's done. Zoo Train first and then the rest of the zoo afterwards, dad. That's just how civilized 2 and a half year olds do it.

The Zoo train is a scale locomotive, which runs completely around the Milwaukee County Zoo. There are two engines, a steam and a diesel, and the steam engine is highly preferred among discriminating Zoo train aficionados, like Nathan.

Upon entering the park, we head directly for the Zoo train, buy our tickets (Nathan still rides free) and wait for the next one to pull into the station. Excitement builds as the train unloads, then the conductor waves our line forward to board.

Nathan is somewhere between utter buzzing excitement and reverence for the Zoo Train. His eyes widen as he soaks in every microsecond of the experience. Once we've settled on a passenger car, we await the parting whistle.

The engine chugs, the cars jolt forward and the ride begins. In a matter of moments we're rolling at full speed, trees and grass flashing past our open train carriage, Nathan smiling a deep, satisfied smile. He's exactly where he wants to be at that very moment in time.

We wave at the people as we pass railroad crossings, laugh as we see other kids in cars ahead and behind as the train bends around the curve. Nathan lets out a giggle whenever the engine toots its whistle. This is 7 minutes of sheer perfection.

When the ride is complete, Nathan is completely content and satisfied. He never fights to stay onboard and never demands a second ride once we're done. Somehow he's found happiness in a single, perfect ride on the Zoo Train.

What a great lesson for me. How can I learn to be content and satisfied when joyful times come? Learning to accept, absorb and revel in those moments, without any thoughts of reviving the moment later or in vain attempts to recreate the moment by grasping for more.

Like my son, I must learn to live in the moments and embrace them for what they are. I desire to become fully satisfied — just like Nathan on the Zoo Train.

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Reader Comments (6)

What a fantastic entry.... it highlights something I've been trying desperately to address for some little time.

I often find that I'm just too busy to enjoy anything - even the really enjoyable parts of my life. It's as though the busy-ness and stress of surviving day-to-day life continues 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. There's no time for enjoyment or, dare I say it, "fun". I'm trying very hard to make space to enjoy stuff - even in the most grotty, stressful day there's always something to stop and enjoy.

I think we can all learn soemthing from Nathan - let's make sure we make space to enjoy the here and now (even if the here and now isn't going to last too long!).

Don't worry, be happy ;-)

August 15, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterSimon Lascelles
Great Reading.:)Cheers
August 16, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterchinchorrero

August 16, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterTodd
I think this is what Jesus meant about faith like a child. Great reflection Mike, a reminder for all of us.
August 16, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJoe
Simon, Eduardo, Todd, and Joe thanks for the kind words!

Simon, I'm especially happy that you found the timing perfect for where you're at right now � I was hoping that would be the case. I also just wanted to capture my thoughts about Nathan and his zoo train love before I forgot. :-)
August 17, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde
How cute! And great food for thought! Thanks Mike!

Strange when you realise how simple great pleasures in life really are. A zoo train. And it's not even a 'real' train. We adults might sneer at this 'toy' not serving much of an apparent purpose.

But that's missing the point. It's not about 'real things' or 'bigger is better' - it's about a simple joy ride. How often can we not stop and enjoy the simple pleasures in the here and now, while chasing after the next 'big' thing? We tend to live in the future, not in the Now.

Reminds me of a line from a favourite song of mine:"Come roll in all the riches all around youAnd for once, never wonder what they're worth."
August 25, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAndy

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