The story of the pass from the Czech forest to kindergarten that brought healing to a family

In the capital of the Czech Republic, students gathered around a video camera. They looked down, captured this close-up shot, and then looked to the left: wispy clouds; bands of blue; and from the clouds that remained, the Alpine peaks of Europe in summer.

The eyes of the camera captured the setting against the background of a group of parents sitting at dinner, yet again.

The moment that made it to the screen was remarkable and spontaneous. A woman, young and female, reached to a thick golden scarf she had worn all day. The scarf broke in two, revealing the two kids sitting down at the table. It was their two small hands, hands well-worn from rain and wind and sun and smudging snow. But the hands, a simple yellow-and-white band, were pure and untainted — the best tattoos that you could imagine.

The gesture of openness to a stranger is one of the most precious customs of Central Europe. But also of fearlessness in the face of failure, failure in the life of a child. In this case the group of children from the Third Forest Camp of Innova-Lomska, one of the Czech Republic’s most prominent mountain schools, was incredibly afraid of the stranger: what if this hand was not one of their own?

This was the year of their return to kindergarten, their first time since the overwhelming losses that had darkened their lives a few years before. They were scared, and the teacher, one of their generation’s self-made artists, held open the book of the sorcerer and reminded them: “Your grandparents taught you one lesson: to trust someone, any person, even a child.” It’s a simple message, but a turning point that the children understood.

“It was something quite obvious,” one of them, a powerful, courageous toddler, said recently.

Sometimes a small child can tell you something that speaks to the country, the collective soul and history. On a beautiful day in the Czech mountains, their handing of the scarf opened up a new dimension of the relationship and the deep-seated conversation. Later in their lives, when they start to communicate with other children, they will do so with their sleeves rolled up, hands full of ink, with their hearts at ease and open to other people. They will do so willingly, making this gesture of trust the skillful start for lifelong reconciliation with unknown worlds.

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