On a summer morning, my four-year-old grandson and I walked down the sand and caliche road on our way to Aunt Nettie’s. Tristan always looked forward to going to Nettie’s field behind her house to feed her Donkey Jack a few slices of soft white bread. He thought it was funny that her Donkey was named Jack like me. So did I.
Making our way to feed Jack the Donkey we held hands. I savored such moments as I knew that one day Tristan would be too old or grownup to do that with me anymore.
Tristan enjoyed walking beneath a canopy of 75-year old live oaks and tall pine trees. I felt the canopy of trees above us reflected the presence of my departed family elders, elders who stood watching over me, Tristan, and those I loved in Emmottville.
During those walks, as an adult, my thoughts drifted to what Tristan’s future would be like for him. As a child, Tristan was not looking ahead to what was to come. Tristan was absorbed in the moment, in the new, and in the unexpected pleasures of just being alive.
In interacting with nature children open the door of their hearts to us. As Tristan was shuffling his tennis-shoed feet on the dirt road, he saw a beautiful red trumpeted flower. “PawPaw, look at that flower!” He stopped and started to bend down to pick it up. I said, “Tristan, wait. Although the flower is beautiful, it is poison and can hurt you.” To which Tristan replied, “Is that what killed my daddy?”
Even at 4 years of age, this little boy was struggling in his own way with understanding the loss of his dad.
I could’ve told him the truth, the real and ugly truth that his dad was murdered when his son was 9 months of age. Near 18th Street and Height’s Boulevard at 9:30 pm. three masked gunmen jumped out of a black SUV brandishing handguns. They shot his dad as he pleaded for his life. They stole $2 from his wallet, a necklace with a shark tooth he wore for good luck, and robbed this sweet grandson of a father.
One problem today is that children experience and know things they are not spiritually, biologically, psychologically, and socially prepared for. As in the Scripture, there is a time and place for everything on the Earth and in Heaven. This was not the time nor the place to tell Tristan the honest hard truth. Instead, I said to Tristan, “No, this trumpet flower did not kill your dad. It was a different kind of poison. It was hate in the hearts of some men. They did not have enough love in their hearts.”
Tristan heard what I said and that was enough for the moment. The true facts would be revealed later to him by his mother when he was more able to hear them, process them, understand them, and maybe even forgive the unknown harbingers of death and hate.
God has spoken to us in Scripture as to sheltering His Children from harm.
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.
See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.
Let us pray together.
Dear God, please guide me to shelter Your children from harm including any words which they are unprepared to hear due to their age and ability to comprehend such truthful information or facts.
God, please help me to only say words as are appropriate for a child to hear at the time and to spare the child from truth which harms the vulnerable child.
God, please direct me to provide acts of love to every child. Those acts of love are the antidote to the hate and evil in the hearts of others. Amen
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Jack H. Emmott is a Senior Counsel of Gray, Reed & McGraw, LLP, a 145-lawyer full-service firm in Houston, Dallas, and Waco, Texas, a Board-Certified Family Law and Master Credentialed Collaborative Law Professional Divorce Attorney, Mediator, Author, Entrepreneur, and Inspirational Speaker. For more information about Jack or his latest book, “Bending Angels: Living Messengers of God’s Love”, go to www.BendingAngel.com website.
Photo credit: Gardenknowhow.com