One table away, at the Indian restaurant where I am dining, a little boy is crying. He is not crying loudly, though he has come to the dry, hiccuping phase in his tears which indicates it has been a long road to arrive at this stage of his demonstrated upset or grief.
As I sit down to eat, I notice that he and his mother are part of a larger family gathering. Buffet days at this restaurant are consistently busy because the buffet offerings are of enough variety to satisfy even the most persnickety of eaters.
“If you can’t stop crying, we’ll have to leave the restaurant,” the boy’s mother leans over to inform him. “Do you want that?” she questions him in a threatening tone.
Internally I sigh and, while taking a deeper breath, wonder why she has not asked him about the source of his tears, reminding myself that I am coming into the situation late. Sometimes the intellectual-emotional exercise of asking children about why they are crying is enough to stop the deluge, if only for a moment.
Finally, out of sheer exasperation, I overhear the mother tell the boy to stuff it, using the old maxim, “Big boys don’t cry.”
I cringe. I contemplate the antiquated maxim, “Big boys don’t cry.” And, ofttimes big boys—that is grown men—can neither identify their own feelings as adults nor can they draw up plausible cause-effect relationships between their personal experiences and those of their internal, emotional world. In this last scenario, grief, fear, abandonment, being slighted or otherwise hurt by life circumstances may end up being channeled into anger or rage—two of the more culturally “acceptable” emotions for men to exhibit.
Returning my attentions to the beautiful plate of food in front of me, I say a short prayer for the gift of my food, as well as a short prayer for this mother and child, while recalling—with profound regret—the less-than-optimal parenting skills I exhibited in my own youthful, child-rearing days. We are a work, are we not? And all of us are “in progress.”
Dear God, please let this small boy come to know that it is okay to cry.
I have a theory that our souls remember every kindness, injury, relationship, pain and Grace bestowed upon us by the actions and inactions of the Light in the souls of Others among us.
Months have gone by since the late morning, early one spring day, when a few words issued from my mouth allowed one teenage boy to regain his Light, after an intense outdoor domestic scene involving his cross and churlish mother.
Walking one of my regular routes to the coffeehouse to work, I see a teenage boy pop out of the same house. The boy is veritably skipping down the long flight of stairs from the front door toward the sidewalk ,where I am passing. From his perspective, the day looks to be a good one.
Almost past the house, I hear the boy shout out to me, “Hey! Are you having a good day?”
A blanket of tense, cogitative fog lifts from around my own dampened Light. Looking over my shoulder to meet his gaze, I give him a standard and socially acceptable reply, “Fine. Thank you for asking.”
Stopping his lank frame at the bottom of the steps, he calls out again, “I want you to have a good day. You need to have a good day.”
His command is a blessing. It is only then that I realize that this may be the same child of Light whom I tried to help one early spring day.
Walking on, I unearth the sacred space in my heart again, and I thank him silently, “And, you too, my friend. And, you too.”
Walking through a neighborhood not far from our own, I observe a woman grab the forearm of her gangly teenage son in vicious impatience. She does this only to yank him closer to herself so that she may spew several ugly, vitriolic phrases in his face about his worthlessness as a human being.
From the looks of the home’s side yard, it appears that the entire family of four has been out working, raking the side-yard dirt to free it from last year’s debris. A new chicken-wire fence is in place. Last fall’s leaves, twigs, sticks and branches, as well as a few scraggily green vines, rest in a heap in the corner of the area which is now cleared dirt.
The only friendly motion in the scene I am witnessing comes from the wriggling swaying tail of a puppy’s unstoppable joy at the undeniable beauty of this early spring day. I suspect the raking has something to do with making way for this family’s new canine friend. I wish that this puppy’s happiness could be magnified and distributed among all five souls present.
Today, I do not hold back. Turning my body halfway around to address the woman, while putting on my very best positive voice, I almost shout, “Wow, are you lucky to have such great help in the yard! Beautiful day to be outside. My own son is all grown up. Hardly see him. Busy. They grow up so fast.”
The woman stares back at me in shocked amazement (maybe at my cheery impudence), loosening her grip on her older male child’s forearm. Her mouth gapes in awe.
Mission accomplished. Further, immediate verbal abuse truncated. But, I can see that the boy’s personal Light is still crumpled up and twisted around his lank physical frame, leaving him vulnerable and emotionally unprotected.
Turning to continue on my walk, I say a silent prayer for this child, “Dear God, please protect this holy child, restore his Light and help him remember who he is—Yours.”
Recently I had the privilege of caring for a friend’s daughter over the course of an extraordinarily beautiful and full day.
The young girl, who is eight, brought her unique perspective, humor and joyful personality to every activity, errand and meal we shared, reminding me that life is indeed a surprise package of wonders waiting to be opened and explored.
In the work-a-day, adult world, we often hold back on the brightest inclinations of our hearts, tending to check our natural warmth and curiosity. And, we otherwise spend our days nursing cranky, broken and injured pieces of ourselves instead of reveling in the very audacious act of living fully. Living in a self-limiting manner, we are like a group of village misers bent upon guarding piles of useless, broken glass.
Life becomes pinched and limited when we fail to remember, acknowledge and honor that aspect of ourselves which would marvel at the activities of a bee pollinating a flower, sense the wind moving through a plain of open grass or observe the light of the sun passing across our resting or moving bodies. Yet, we can reawaken the Self through the conscious observation of our immediate surroundings and through our attentive care toward the heart’s inner most chamber.
In reawakening, we may choose to share the planet respectfully with our co-inhabitants and vow to affirm life with a renewed commitment toward the Light.
Walking the dogs through the neighborhood, I appreciate the street’s quiet and fresh air. The dogs and I meet a rare vehicle or two. There is only moderate foot traffic and a few bicycles here and there. Most everyone waves or nods a hello.
What causes the most noise in our neighborhood is what happens domestically in and around the edges of houses. This particular neighborhood suffers terribly from the noise, static and discordant sounds of a multitude of voices in inefficient and angry communication with one another. There are words of harshness, betrayal and abuse.
When we first moved into this region, we had come from the American Southwest where the code of ethics among certain local First-Nation peoples required that extra attention be paid to the issue of speech because, it is believed, a person has the power to talk things into being.
There is also one First-Nation group that follows a no-gossip policy because it is considered unethical to talk about anything which one has not witnessed directly; and, if one has witnessed something, that “something” should not be talked about unless the witness is asked to report about it directly.
Thus, unbeknownst to us at the time, we had spent a full five years—de facto—living in a community which was like an exclusive monastic retreat . This unique culture around speech invited us to reassess our own habituated and inefficient patterns of communication. Thus, on some days in our new location, it seems as though we are growing quieter while the neighborhood around us grows louder.
One day among my many walks stands out above all others, while reveling in the beauty of the weather, breathing deeply and walking with my dogs, I witness two young children come running out of a house into the middle of a quiet street crossing.
There is a lot of shouting coming from the front door that has swung open as a result of the children’s departure. Fear and terror are in the eyes of the older boy. The younger boy has opted out emotionally, working to file this event away somewhere in his clay-like psyche rather than deal with it. How can he? The older boy, perhaps six years of age, approaches me. Fear having taken his words away.
“Do you need some help?” I ask him, not really knowing what else to say or do.
He nods at me, still mute with fear.
“Okay, I’ll see what I can do.”
I feel that calm stillness that accompanies me when I am in alignment. So, I decide to proceed to the house with the dogs beside me.
Stepping onto the porch with both dogs, I witness a huge man through the open door. He is perhaps two-hundred and eighty pounds, pinned on the floor of the living room with another huge man and a leaner woman both on top of the downed man, pummeling the downed man with closed fists and shouting about how the downed man “needs to get his sh*t” out of the house. An issue regarding rent or living circumstances might be involved. (This is surmised conjecture.)
“Do you folks need some help?” I ask from the open doorway, being careful not to step over the threshold.
For a moment the physical assault stops. The pummeling stops long enough for the man under attack to be able to right himself and run to the back of the house with the other two individuals in close pursuit while the verbal assault continues. At this point, I leave the porch to reenter the street where the older boy is waiting.
“I am sorry that I cannot do more than that,” I tell him. He nods in silence.
The large man under siege is now out of the house and in the process of leaving in his car. The emotion around the incident hangs in the air.
I begin the walk away from the house with my dogs, leaving the violent, confusing, irrational, raw emotion that permeates those people, their circumstances, the house and its vicinity. Calmness returns to me again.
People. Things. Things. People. “People and their sh*t,” as they say. When will we learn to bring our calm, adult Selves to the table?
Perhaps it is unethical for me to report this to you. I have considered that. You did not ask me about my walk on that day or the status of things in parts of my extended neighborhood.
I tell you about this experience because there were children involved—there are children involved.
We, as human beings, still need a lot of help with basic communication skills, learning how to read and understand our emotions, as well as how to address uncomfortable circumstances and unethical behaviors with diplomacy. We need help with ethics and peace, because there are always children involved-watching and learning.