There are little moments, seemingly insignificant cracks in the fabric of daily life where you get a glimpse of something singular. As a parent you continually ask if you are doing the right thing, and that right thing inevitably has ties to your child’s growth. You repeat yourself, you model, you talk about doing the right things, you walk your talk as best as you can in hopes that your children get it. And what is the it? Act like your actions matter, treat others like you want to be treated, and so on. It’s the it that is in our hearts and minds when we envision our best selves. It is a process and it takes time and effort.
One Saturday I had the double joy of being with both boys and everyone wanting to do the same thing: hit the gym. At this point they were both involved in competitive sports, and taking care of their bodies was important. For me, I was just hoping to get some exercise and add some mileage to the old tires. We enjoyed a workout and on the ride back home the car had that nostalgic scent of the old high school locker room. Beautiful. But it gets better…
I get out of the car to find the latest offerings from a passing storm. Every time it gusts we get the inevitable littering of sticks and branches all over the yard. I do a quick check of body parts and decide I have a few more bends left in my back. I walk fifteen or twenty feet to a few stray sticks on the front lawn. Now in the midst of the clean-up I realize it will take longer than I thought.
As I bend to grab the first few sticks, out of the corner of my eye I see the slowing steps of each son on the walkway to the front door. Then they stop. I keep on picking up sticks but watch curiously in my periphery. The boys do not speak. Slowly they turn and start walking to the lawn. Each bends and begins to pick up…
One stick, two sticks….
My heart fills and I give thanks. I consider the wise words regarding intention: you can buy their backs, but you can’t buy their hearts. These must be volunteered.
We finish without a word. I enjoy the walk to the front door as three sweaty men head inside. I touch both boys on the back, let my hand linger. A chore became a keepsake in the shape of sticks.