Reprinted with permission from "Bringing God Home" (St. Martin's Press).

If our children can't awaken us to what really matters, nobody can. Sometimes they come right out and tell us. Children are by nature unafraid to speak their minds (at least until we teach them otherwise). Not that they are perfect, only to be ruined by their elders. After all, children are human too. But they do have much to teach us, simply by the way they view the world.

Among my favorite "out of the mouths of babes" love stories comes one from a parishioner.This parishioner took his nine-year-old camping one summer. Until recently-when my family and I went down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River and I learned better-my memory of camping was trout for breakfast: you catch it, you clean it it. With a far more reverent outlook, this fellow pulled out all the stops when introducing his son to the grandeur of the creation..

This father is an architect. Judging by his buildings, I would conclude that the mountains and stars inspire him, though the towers he designs also supplant nature, dominating the heavens with their brilliant luminosity. When camping together, he and his son gazed upon a different sky, its heavens gently darkening until, one by one, the stars came out.

"This is the eighth wonder of the world," the man said to his son.

"What are the other seven?" asked the boy.

Can you name the Seven Wonders of the World, a group of remarkable creations of ancient times? When my parishioner shared this story with me, off the top of my head, I conjured up three: the Egyptian pyramids, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and the Colossus of Rhodes. Not bad. But just in case one of my own children should ask the same question on some future virtual camping expedition, I took out a little insurance, looking up the other four in my encyclopedia. Here they are: the tomb of Mausolus at Halicarnassus; the temple of Artemis at Ephesus; the statue of Zeus by Phidias at Olympia; and the Pharos (or lighthouse) of Alexandria. Of course.

When it comes to the Seven Wonders of the World, my friend the architect has a built-in advantage: architects designed five of them. But he didn't tell the story to boast of his craft. Quite the opposite.

He answered his son's question, describing each of these marvels in considerable detail. Then the two of them stood silently together, until the sky wound itself into a riot of stars. Minutes passed. The man lost himself in the heavens. The boy pondered his father's words.


"Yes, son?"

"Those things you told me about. They aren't the real Seven Wonders of the World."

"What do you mean, son?"

"The first wonder of the world is a baby being born. Don't you think so, Dad? The second is being able to see. Then comes being able to talk and walk. That's four. Hearing makes five. Then either touch or smell, maybe both?"

Looking upon the creation with new eyes, his father said, "How about love?"

"Love," his son repeated. "You got it, Dad. That's the eighth wonder of the world."

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