04/04/2011 05:17 pm ET Updated Jun 04, 2011

It's All Happening at the Zoo

I went to the Denver Zoo recently to reflect.

Quite often, a change of scenery helps give me a fresh perspective. I was expecting that perhaps an elephant munching some hand-held roasted peanuts might renew my faith in humanity.

Instead, the insight I sought came, unexpectedly, from a Middle Eastern boy outside the entrance gates.

He was about five years old, and his family was in a long line buying their admission tickets.

Off to the side of the admission windows are several marvelous sculptures.

The one that caught the boy's eye was of three stainless steel giraffes: a mother giraffe bending down to feed her baby, with the papa giraffe standing proudly nearby. The sculpture was enclosed by a single rope barrier.

The young boy got up close to the sculpture and, with an expression of joy and glee, he clapped his hands, laughed and danced around with unrestrained happiness. He was totally enthralled with the scene, as was I.

Like a trained art curator in a museum, he studied every facet of the giraffe display during the entire time his parents purchased their tickets. His whole posture was one of sheer joy.

Finally, his father said, "Come on, son, it's time to go." His parents, of course, meant, into the park.

They were about to enter and see all of the wonders inside the zoo.

However; apparently being his first visit to the zoo, the boy started to cry and held onto the rope surrounding the sculpture.

He yelled, "Won't go! No, papa, please! Won't go!" The boy expected to come to the zoo and stay for a while. It was so marvelous.

How could his father possibly want to leave?

You see, the boy thought that he had already arrived. This was it: the Denver Zoo.

He had no idea that there were live animals and so much more to explore beyond the entry way.

I could just imagine his expression when he finally realized that this wasn't the end, but the beginning. I could imagine his joy when he got to see the live giraffes and their babies frolicking about.

Instead, with great amusement, I got to witness his parents dragging him through the zoo entrance gates over his protests.

How many of us are like the boy? We believe we've already arrived, only to miss out on many of life's greatest experiences. We cling to our personal ropes of complacency.

We have been given this wonderful gift: life itself. It's so full of infinite discovery and wonder. Yet often we latch on to our televisions, iPods, computers, jobs, or a narrow set of views.

The good news is it doesn't take any money to change this mindset. It doesn't take a thick self-help book full of instructions, or a guru, either.

Just do something you always wanted to do but haven't. Take a barefoot walk in the rain. Go fly a kite with a child. Break the ice with someone you have always secretly admired. Or just go to the zoo. You never know what you might discover.

Michael J. McCarthy can be contact at: