In keeping with my decision to write about the goodness in the human heart during the holiday season, I offer you the following short passage excerpted and adapted from Calm Surrender, my book about forgiveness:
We are the creators; we are the healers. The lives of our children are shaped by our hands.
We do them no justice when we hide their eyes from the cruelty in the world, for they will find it soon enough, or it will find them. But neither do we do them justice when we fail to show them the beauty of a sunset, or to teach them of the healing miracle of love.
We must show them the cruelty, then teach them how to love. We must show them the injustice, then teach them how to serve.
We must open their eyes to the sunset and the murmuring tides.
We must teach them how to hallow life, to value kindness, to honor the strong who lift up the weak.
And then we must take their hands and lead them to a high place where they can look our over the vast richness of life and recognize that it is good.
2 thoughts on “Thoughts on Children”
Hi again, Kent, and thank you for the gift of your deep thoughts. When I read them during the course of the midnight shift I work, I sometimes have the time to give them consideration I might not have the rest of the day in this busy life of mine.
There are times in the bowels of the night, especially in the winter, when radio traffic dies to zero and there is time to think. I have just read your Thoughts On Children, and I am afraid.
My daughter, now twelve, is my only, and a great, great joy in my life. I came from a relatively ‘normal’ background (read that white and almost middle class) and I still vividly recall so many of the things I have seen, experienced, and Creator forgive me, done, in the course of my many years of serving my community
I have been profoundly affected, changed, elementally altered by the horrors, the tragedies, the violence and hatred and anger and degradation I have seen man subject man to.
For the better? I would think not. Knowing what I know, perhaps I am more aware of what is and can be, and perhaps I wish and hope for possibilities I know might exist under other circumstances. But with this experience come the grim shadows of cynicism and pragmatism and fatalism.
But I am scarred, Kent. The man I might have been, the person I once was, is now me. Sometimes I feel like the only people who understand are combat veterans and other cops and firefighters. I sacrificed the man I might have been to do this job. If I had known thirty years ago, would I have chosen differently?
No. I have done what I was put here to do, and have followed my Path and could not have done differently. I have walked my Path by choice, and though I have many sorrows and frustations from it, I would not choose a difffernt way for myself.
But my daughter….we have this discussion at work, now and again, some of the other ‘grayhairs’ and I. One of them has his 28 year old daughter just coming on the Job, and it is a difficult thing to understand.
My daughter is the original innocent. She is a wonderful person, but she believes the rest of the world is like her. (!) Paranoia and overweening father’s love? I begin to believe I have done her a disservice by sheltering her from the news, the world at large. Oh, we have had to explain some bad things from time to time, but her world is still us, school and the vast Something Else.
And so I am scared, Kent, a hard thing in a man my age with my experience. I am afraid for my little one. How do I expose her to the bad things of the world, but balance them with the good? How to justify violence, explain why we eat four times a day and half the rest of the world goes hungry, how to rationalize poverty, indifference, greed and all the other sins you can think of? What is the right way to explain how a little girl her age is raped and murdered in an abandoned building?
I suppose it is something every father goes through, but it is a quandry for me. I fear the cruelty finding my little one. I want to protect her as long as I can.
I can show her, teach her all about cruelty and injustice. I can let her watch the nine 0’clock news. Can I ever explain to her twelve year old mind and heart the whys and wherefores of what is happening around her?
How do I reply to her simple questions that will inevitably be ‘well why doesn’t everybody just…?’
Oh, I love your words, Kent. They touch my very soul and bring tears to my eyes. I only wish you had an instruction book to tell me how it’s done.
It’s cold here, for this early in Chicago. The snow is ten inches deep and the ice crystals blaze and reach out from the trees and drifts. Robins swoop and swarm our holly bushes for the bright red berries peeking out from their cover of white. Soon I will bundle up to take the dogs for a constitutional (they are both fine, by the way, no more adventures).
My wife and her mom are tiling in the bathroom and I will be bringing decorations down from the attic when I get back. My daughter is drawing in her room, and when I go past, I cannot help but look at her just a little differently after reading your passage.
My love and concern for her are boundless as ever. My doubts about how I have raised her, what I have taught her (if anything), and if I have helped prepare her for her life ahead, which is my job, rise and drift across my heart like snow devils in the cold wind.
Once again, you have moved me to think, not so easy for a gray heair who, daily, begins to believe he has missed the wisdom bus and is having more questions about life the longer it goes on than answers.
I read your web items every time I get a notice there is a new one, and I like to sneak your books to work from time to time, for a dose of soul-healing and thought-provoking. Thank you very much for these small gems I can read and carry with me. They kind of counter-balance a lot of other things I have to carry with me.
I am hoping ‘Santa’ read my list and Chief Joseph will be under the tree for me! I am cutting back on regular reading now I have gone back to school, so I need to be a little more selective in what I allow myself in my free moments.
Sorry to have taken up so much space! I generally try to keep my thoughts to myself, but on occasion it’s just too much to keep in and I share the darned things, whether I like it or not.
Thanks again for the beautiful thoughts and insights you share with me and all the othera yearning for a little more depth and meaning in life.
Wishing you and yours all the joys life can bring, and continuing success and fulfillment on your Path, I am
Morning Mr. N –
I was reading through the posting and realized how true it is that we shape our childrens lives… I recall back in school you always took a passive stance on our learning and education. Maybe we took it for granted too many times then. (I was a bit difficult, I know) Only now, as I have become a parent myself, do I really appreciate everything you did way back then. I’ve given my oldest the tattered copy of “The Tao of Leadership” that you gave us to read. I’ve also given him copies of your other books to read. It helps to have a backup for what I’m trying to teach him. I didnt understand back then how hard it is to shape a young mind and form a decent, caring being in the world we have to work with.
As I watch my 3 children grow and learn I realize that, no matter how bad you may want to, you cant keep the world from them. You can only give them guidance and tools to deal with the world. You can walk beside them to teach but not in front to shelter – children have to be allowed to experience life for themselves and make their own impressions. This is one of the many things I never got to thank you for. You always gave us the freedom to experience things on our own and let us learn from them what we would. It made a better person of me in my opinion. Hopefully I can pass that on to my own children as they grow. Thank you so much for everything you taught and continue to teach –