Eleven-month-olds know how to gather crumbs. My grandson Walker stops midcrawl to inspect the only dust bunny in the corner. He turns its gray strands over in his tiny palm, begins the lift to his mouth before I swap him the yellow measuring cup. He laughs and flips the plastic back and forth, bangs it upside down and right side up.

After playtime, Walker explores his high-chair tray dotted with small Puffs, toddler snacks not unlike the Cheerios I used to give his mother at the same age. He plunks his first finger into a Puff and raises it to his lips.

If he misses, he bunches up its pieces from his sticky cheeks, smooshes them onto his wet chin and claps when they land on his tongue.

What if we, too, woke up to the small marvels in life?

Walker’s twin brother, Taylor, takes minutes to run his pointer finger along the spotted pattern in the carpet; open hand, open mind. He then folds his hands in prayer position in front of his sweet face and scans the specks on his fingers.

What if we, too, cherished such miracles?


Eleven-month-olds could teach us about joy. As I watch Walker and Taylor with their singular attention to what’s right in front of them, I miss the delight of the moment as my mind flashes to grown-up concerns. “Should I buy scallions at Whole Foods or the farmers market tomorrow? What if it pours for Becca’s beach wedding next weekend? Do I have the right clothes for Virginia next month?”

Mind busy with scattered themes and schemes, I spot Walker as he scurries to me with a baby-proof outlet cover in his mouth. My daughter assures me her son did not pull this out of a socket; he found it on the floor, one of those crumbs he couldn’t overlook, one of those everyday surprises in his path that call for time, interest and inquiry.

After I trade Walker his much-loved orange teething ring for the plug’s plug, he smiles and waddles off, as Taylor comes up to me to research the shiny buttons at the loose collar of my shirt. Touch. Look. Taste. My thoughts, though, wander to that tightly buttoned shirt author Eckhart Tolle wore on TV.

Taylor stays at my neck. I, on the other hand, go on a mental romp. I wonder, “Would Eckhart’s buttons shine? His work surely shines, like his book, ‘The Power of Now.’ Will I ever finish reading that? His writing and his humor sparkle. I like him. I don’t understand him fully. I hope he keeps giving talks. Maybe I can find him on You Tube. I’ll check Amazon, too.”


I have not lost the irony that my adult brain has flown to the future while Tolle’s simple be-here-now message and the wide-eyed twins try to teach me presence.

These 11-month-olds seem to know by instinct what Macrina Wiederkehr, a Benedictine nun, says in her book “A Tree Full of Angels”: “Holiness comes wrapped in the ordinary. There are burning bushes all around you. Every tree is full of angels. Hidden beauty is waiting in every crumb.”

Maybe to be happy, we need to take care of these waiting crumbs, to regain our vital instincts toward joy. Perhaps childlike attention could lead us to this holiness.

If we make crumbs — handshakes from those we meet, the quick hugs we exchange with friends and family, waves from neighbors — if we can, at least some of the time, move these mostly ignored burning bushes to the center of our awareness, maybe we’d uncover the beauty all around us.

If we learned from 11-month-olds, we might think less, feel more. We might discover their secrets for giggling and their ever-unfolding sense of awe.


Even though this poem, “Crumbs,” comes from Gunilla Norris in “Becoming Bread: Meditations on Loving and Transformation,” I think the angels Taylor and Walker secretly wrote it for us:

Be careful with the crumbs.

Do not overlook them.

Be careful with the crumbs:

the little chances to love,

the tiny gestures, the morsels

that feed, the minims.

Take care of the crumbs:

a look, a laugh, a smile,

a teardrop, an open hand. Take care

of the crumbs. They are food also.

Do not let them fall.

Gather them. Cherish them.

Susan Lebel Young teaches yoga, mindfulness and meditation and is the author of “Lessons from a Golfer: A Daughter’s Story of Opening the Heart.” She may be reached at: [email protected]