Friday, September 05, 2008
"World, Take My Son" *
"My son starts to school tomorrow.
It's all going to be strange and new to him for a while, and I wish you would treat him gently. You see, up to now, he's been king of the roost. He's been boss of the backyard. I have always been around to repair his wounds, and I've always been handy to soothe his feelings. But now, things are going to be different.
This morning he's going to walk down the front steps, wave his hand, and start on his great adventure that probably will include wars and tragedy and sorrow. To live his life in the world he has to live in, will require faith and love and courage. So World, I wish you would sort of take him by his young hand and teach him the things he will have to know. Teach him....but gently, if you can.
He will have to learn. I know that not all men are just, that all men are not true. Teach him that for every scoundrel there is a hero, that for every crooked politician there is a dedicated leader. Teach him that for every enemy there is a friend. Let him learn early that the bullies are the easiest people to lick. Teach him the wonders of books. Give him quiet time to ponder the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun, and flowers on a green hill.
Teach him that it is far ,more honourable to fail than to cheat. Teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if everyone tells him they are wrong. Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when everyone else is getting on the bandwagon. Teach him to listen to all men, but to filter all he hears on a screen of truth, and to take only the good that comes through.
Teach him to sell his brawn and brains to the highest bidder, but never to put a price tag on his heart and soul. Teach him to close his ears to a howling mob, and to stand and fight if he thinks he's right. Teach him gently, World, but don't coddle him, because only the test of fire makes fine steel.
This is a big order, World, but see what you can do. He's such a nice little fellow, my son."
This essay found it's way into my hands when my children were very small and starting off to school. It expressed, in words I couldn't have strung together at the time, exactly how I felt. Since our 5 1/2 year old grandson, T, and just six year old granddaughter, S, started kindergarten this week, I've been remembering when their mom and dad respectively, started off to school. The huge brown eyes of T's mom as she stood, not yet five, so pretty, so little, so shy, and so scared, on the school playground, and the sparkling, excited eyes of S's dad, swaggering his way off to the big world, having heard all about it from big sis. And I thought of this.
And now, looking back I know that the World listened. I know that they face the inevitable slings and arrows with faith and love and courage. I could take the world to task for not being as gentle a teacher as I would have liked, but that wouldn't change anything. It did teach them the wonders of books, and they do have a finely honed appreciation for the marvels of nature. And backbones of steel.
In my mind's eye I could see the thin, yellowing piece of paper...So I dug and dug, in all the wrong places, and couldn't find it. In despair sat down, and thought.....and thought. And then the universe took pity on me and threw me a lifeline. The raggedy old bulging journal I'd written in sporadically all the years they were growing up! That's where it's sure to be! Some more digging. And sure enough! There it was! And here it is. I hope you like it as much as I do.
*My thirty plus year-old piece of paper declares the original source to be unknown. Whoever printed and distributed it found it in the Pennsylvania Parent-Teacher Bulletin of September 1971.