The local news helicopter circled over the neighborhood this afternoon, and – since news coverage tends to go where there’s calamity, and since (Lord knows) there’s been plenty of that lately, and since my grandchildren are now loose in the ‘hood on their bikes – my mind ran the gamut of concerns: traffic accident, incident with a train on the tracks, crime, fire, road rage, escalating international tension (or worse), or . . . well, you know the litany.
The station’s live stream provided both explanation and comfort: the 168th St. Joe picnic in Crescent Hill is getting underway. Folks of all persuasions are gathering, once again, to participate in a beautiful community ritual to support the kids. Frosty beverages will be enjoyed, cake wheels will be spun, there’ll be stories told, and laughter, a few folks will walk home and come back tomorrow to try and find their cars, and the whole neighborhood will relax into a routine of doing something good together, for folks they may not even know. Because, under our crusty shells, it’s who we are. Thanks to everyone who puts in the hours of work to make this happen. Again. And thanks be to God.
Driving from our neighborhood one recent afternoon for a routine errand, I saw twenty seconds of drama unfold at the corner. A young dad and his three- or four-year old daughter were out for a walk together, and something she had done had displeased or disappointed him, or threatened her safety. He was on one knee, his face on her level, speaking softly but intensely to make sure she heard and understood. He shifted his weight to stand, his eyes emphasizing his words of instruction or caution, said another word or two and stood up.
There was just a moment’s pause before she took a step forward, wrapped her arms around his legs and buried her face there, her shoulders making it clear she was crying. He put his hands lightly on her back and comforted her as I turned the corner and lost sight of them.
It was no surprise that I felt a strong identification with the dad, as I remembered times with my own kids – and now my grandkids – when I walked the balance beam between unbending Drill Sargent and comforting Earth Mother.
I was very surprised, though, that I also identified with the child. I’m aware, again and again, that I still need both those influences for the grownup walks I take these days. Words of uncompromising challenge balanced with warm acceptance – sometimes each coming from an individual specializing in a particular element, and sometimes – like the father of the young girl in my neighborhood – wrapped up in a single presence.
May I be open to receiving all the facets of instruction and guidance I need. May I have courage to offer all that others need.