As I wind through the streets of our quiet, suburban neighborhood, the sounds of a video game streamer coming from my oldest son’s phone and Peppa the Pig from my youngest’s, my wife and I are complaining about the upcoming Daylight Savings change. Mostly I’m whining about the disruption to the boys sleeping schedule, the difficulty in getting them to bed an hour earlier. Our complaints are interrupted by flashing blue and red lights less than a block from our house. As we pull closer, we can see the entire block is closed off with yellow police tape.
Just two houses down from ours, a 15-year-old boy was shot in the chest and killed.
It wasn’t long ago he was likely watching streamers on youtube, playing Minecraft, chasing his friends on the playground and doing the things little boys do. Maybe, like me, his mom told him multiple times to pick up his shoes from the floor, struggled to get him to eat healthy and scolded him for his cluttered bedroom. She hugged him, teased him, laughed with him and cried with him. Today she cries beside him.
It is so easy to fall into the routine, to forget how truly special and fragile life is. To complain about the little things and miss the big picture. I’ve thought about that boy a lot since then. I didn’t know him. I don’t know his family, but still, I imagine him at my son’s age. Too few years ago he was full of innocence.
So in the coming weeks, I hope my children forgive me if I hold them a bit closer. If I hug them just a little longer every time I remember the mom just a few houses down who can no longer embrace her son.
This weekend, I lost an hour. She lost a lifetime.
It’s a warm spring day. Sunlight filters through the tinted glass windows of my truck onto my face as I stare through the windshield, navigating a sea of traffic. In the seat behind me, my four-year-old is immersed in the world outside the truck. He sits and silently watches the scenery fly by. His characteristical porcelain cheeks are now rosy from the warm rays and his bright blue eyes flit back and forth along with the changing landscape. It’s a rare quiet moment in the bustle of our daily life. Suddenly the quiet is broken by a command from my son, “Langston’s window, go down please!” As he finishes the line, the window begins to lower, warm air rushes in and he smiles.
I’m about six years old. It’s a dark night in central Louisiana. My Dad has spent the last hour warning me and my little brother about the armies of alligators waiting in the darkness to eat us if we venture outside of our home. Once we are fully convinced there is no way we will ever go outside at night again, my Dad decides Mom needs her purse out of the car, parked in the driveway. Of course, we immediately object. “Trust me,” he says trying not to smile, “you’ll be fine, just cluck like a chicken and the alligators will be confused and leave you alone.”
Trust is an amazing thing. On a whim a few weeks ago I decided to convince my son the windows in our truck are voice activated. My Dad convinced his sons that clucking like a chicken will keep you safe from alligators that stalk Louisiana suburbs. Children have no life experience to jade them. They haven’t been lied to, deceived, hurt or betrayed enough to corrupt their young hearts. Sometimes I wish I was more like that. I wish I could trust enough to believe even the most ridiculous things just because someone I love said them. I wish I could trust there is a father in heaven who loves me and only wants the best for me, even though my 33-year-old heart has been corrupted.
Trust is beautiful, and so off I go into the darkness. Clucking the entire way.
If you wake me each morning with the sound of your loving voice,
I’ll go to sleep each night trusting in you.
Point out the road I must travel;
I’m all ears, all eyes before you
Solitus Sum: I have been accustomed.
It’s 10:45 am on a Tuesday. I’m standing at yet another park watching my rambunctious toddlers race through a maze of colorful plastic playground. My oldest son flies down the slide with a scream and wood chips scatter as his feet hit the ground. He looks over at me for approval. I smile and then look back down at the screen in my hands. A small brown and yellow bird lands next to my youngest son who exclaims, “Buud!” as he shuffles towards it with arms outstretched. I smile at him as the bird lifts into the sky and then I once again look down at the glowing light in my palm.
I have become accustomed to my life. I assume these moments are ubiquitous, when in reality they are unique. I am not intentionally ignoring life as it blows by me in a flash of color, it’s just that I have become accustomed to it. It happened over time. Little by little amazing moments became routine.
One of my favorite excerpts is from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay on Nature. “If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown!”
It’s easy to become accustomed to seeing the stars every night and miss their beauty. This blog is my attempt to force myself to notice the beauty in every day moments.