From the Children
For the past several nights the weatherman on Channel 4 has been in near hysterics over the heat. In the manner of an Old Testament prophet he points to the map, now recoloured a blazing orange for ultimate effect, flails his arms and predicts… “Tomorrow will be the hottest day so far this year!”. As we are in the South, and it is only June, I find this forecast fairly unremarkable. That said, it is hot, and getting hotter, which means Edward’s normally exuberant enthusiasm for his daily walk has evaporated to a trickle. Until September he will prefer a game of fetch down the cool hallways of the house.
So I find myself at the gym more often where my daily walks are done at a much faster pace, in air-conditioned comfort, on the treadmill. This is not as bad as it sounds. With my music in my ears, I can close my eyes and be practically anywhere, and of course there are lots of opportunities for observation in a public place like this one. For instance, there is the elderly gentleman who walks the track with sheet music in his hands, singing along all the way. There is the white-haired old lady who strolls, in heels, with her handbag on her arm. A statuesque woman who works the track like a catwalk. And then, sometimes, if I’m lucky, on the open floor below me will be a large group of children taking part in some sort of summer camp. They do gymnastics, practice cheerleading routines, and consume great quanities of Kool-aid and Animal Crackers, a menu that, oddly, hasn’t changed in half a century. I find these kids endlessly entertaining and amazingly instructive. For instance, I’ve noticed they run everywhere they go, and I mean everywhere. Want to talk to someone over there? Run! Want to get something that you left in your backpack over there? Run! Want to visit the ladies room? Run!… and for good measure add a couple of cartwheels as you go! I watch them running from my sweaty place on the treadmill, feeling the irony most acutely, and marvel again at the easy wisdom of children.
Thinking about these kids as I run, I recall a report I recently heard on the radio. Jen and Adam Slipakoff have a transgender child named Allie. Born a boy named Eli, Allie always knew she was a girl in her head and began transitioning when she was four. When asked if they ever thought about what it meant to be transgender, or about having a transgender child, Allie’s father said, “Not even a little bit.”
Concerned about hurtful remarks, one of the family’s neighbors related the instruction she gave her son about how to treat Allie. She told him, “I just don't want you to point out that Eli is now wearing a dress”. "And he said, 'What are you talking about? Like what would you say?' And I said, 'I'm just saying don't, don't say anything that would hurt her feelings.' And he said, 'Why would I do that??’"
From my spot on the treadmill I gaze down at these children running around below me and see a myriad of skin colours, hair styles, and personalities. They are all laughing together, obviously enjoying each other’s company with a relish few adults can match. For them, it’s too soon for prejudice and polarization. Too soon for suspicion and fear. Too soon for dogmatism. Too soon for gun permits. Too soon for hate.
A couple of months ago I was invited to read some of my stories to a class of at-risk children, aged five to twelve. Seems their teacher had read Edward Speaks at Midnight to them at Christmas and they wanted me to visit. I did, and I had a ball. At the close of the class I asked if anyone had questions. An adorable second-grader raised his hand. “Yes?”, I said. With honest curiosity and a shimmering intelligence far beyond his years, he looked at me and asked, “What inspires you?”
I don’t remember everything I told him,
but today as I pray for the world these children will inherit,
I would say, “You do.”
Listen to the NPR report referenced HERE
and please pray for the people of Orlando.