A Glimpse Within

My child is filthy.  His clothes hang disheveled, covered with mud and soot.  I can smell him from several feet away.  His face and hands are nearly black.  His shins are covered with blood from bug bites and brambles, sweat drips from under his baseball hat.  He’s smiling as I walk toward him. 

I ask him about his day.  I expect to hear about building camp in the woods, about making a fire without matches, about whittling a bowl from a log.  He is a Forest Scout and this is his first day of Earth Skills camp.  On other such days, he’s talked of juniper tea and eating roadkill.  He has built himself a shelter of branches and snow and spent a February night there.  He has talked of hiking to the middle of the Maine woods with only a compass and some cryptic directions back to the path: left at the big mossy rock, straight through the blueberry patch…The stories of his adventures in the woods tumble out, his words almost faster than his mind as he races from highlight to highlight. 

These are not the stories I hear now. Instead, he tells me he was annoyed all day.  He struggled with his group and isn’t sure how he’ll participate with them the rest of this week.  Though the activities were fun, there were kids in his group who “put a damper on the day”.  I ask him to begin at the beginning.

One boy came to camp wearing a fedora.  My son inquired about his choice of head wear and this boy responded that he’s Jewish and that all of the great rabbis wear a fedora.  This satisfied my child’s curiosity.  Throughout the day, however, other boys in the group would make comments to this boy such as “you can’t play this with us, you’re Jewish” or “we’ll fight you, you’re Jewish”.  The boy would laugh along with these others but my son was deeply offended.  He asked the boys to stop speaking this way.  He told them their words, while not aimed at him, were hurtful and offensive.  Once in a while, the counselor would also ask the boys to rein in their comments, though it didn’t last for long. 

My son and I consider the options.  He can deal with it as he did today.  He can ask to switch groups. He can try to find remedy through dialogue.  He decides to speak to the assistant program director since his counselor has already left for the day.  He tells her he’s uncomfortable in his group with this kind of atmosphere.  She agrees that it is unacceptable and assures him that she will speak to the counselor and help him to resolve the issue.  My son feels better and begins in earnest now to describe the ember he created to hollow out the center of his cedar-log bowl.  For a moment, all else is forgotten.

This boy, my first child, is a student of history.  He knows World War II the way other boys his age know baseball statistics.  He can rattle off campaigns, dates, military leaders and strategies, weapons, outcomes.  He is fascinated with Nazi propaganda.  Sometimes it is disturbing, this knowledge.  I try to encourage him to fill his mind with peace- as balance.  I required he read “Talking Peace” by Jimmy Carter last school year.  I banned war books for the summer.  I limit the amount of conversation focused on the military.  It is my own discomfort.  It is my own hope that my child not absorb the terror, hatred, brutality of history.  It is my dream that he be an instument for peace in the world. 

I see now that I need not worry.    The program director meets the kids in the woods.  He speaks to them of tolerance and awareness.  There are fewer remarks and the kids respect my son’s request that they refrain from anti-Semitism, even when “joking”.  Are these boys truly anti-Semites?  Probably not.  Is the boy who is Jewish offended?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that my child  has demonstrated strength of character.  He has proven his integrity.  He is sensitive to inherent wrong.  He has shown leadership in his intolerance of the language and actions of his peers.  He has been proactive in seeking resolution.  I know he can use a compass to navigate the woods and now I realize he has tapped an internal compass as well.  I am so proud of him.  I am so grateful he is in this world, as he is.  He is all boy: filthy and disheveled, bruised, smelly and physical.  Yet he is more and I have caught a glimpse of him in truth: strong, principled, peaceful.  Amen!  I am a lucky momma, indeed.

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15 Comments on “A Glimpse Within”

  1. untermarmot Says:

    Susan, That was wonderful – to honor his birthday in such a way.

  2. wisetrout Says:

    Reblogged this on Wisetrout's Blog and commented:

    It is this beautiful boy’s 18th birthday today. I celebrate him now, as ever.

  3. What a great story. What a great and wise son. Let’s hope Griffin will run this country someday 🙂

  4. Jeff Says:

    What a beautiful piece about the Griff-meister, one of the kindest souls I’ve ever known! You certainly seem to have found your calling with this blog (or maybe this blog will serve as a catalyst to your calling?). You’ve always found comfort in pouring your thoughts onto the pages of your journal. It’s nice to see that you are sharing your keen observations about life with others now and doing it so well.

  5. Ryan Says:

    Oh Griffin, He truly is one of the most special people I am blessed to know. You have written a beautiful tribute to a wonderful soul. Although only 12, he has wisdom and compassion beyond his years. Thank you for sharing Sue.

  6. Mara Says:

    Susan your words are as beautiful as Griffin’s deeds. Thanks for sharing! Hoping to see you all soon!

  7. Sam Goodall Says:

    I love Griffman~ What an insightful, courageous, loving boy! No surprise when you consider who his mom is 😉 Your words have started my day off with a gift, truly. Keep it up, Susie~ you really have a talent (well, you have many talents but writing is certainly amongst them!) Love you.

  8. ChrisAnn Says:

    Loved this. I am proud of your boy even though I have no idea which one it is !!!

    Encourage the history, not enough people have found ‘understanding’ in the brutality of humanity to enforce a stop of the perpetual cycle.


  9. gottaluvem Says:

    Beautiful again, Susan. I love the contradiction of his outward appearance being dirty and disheveled as his inner heart and soul is pure white, innocent, and filled with integrity. You must be so proud of him. I do hope you take some credit for him being the beautiful person that he is; it is because you are an amazing Mom! Thank you for yet another touching piece!

  10. Kathy Says:

    Susan – What a beautiful piece. I was crying by the end. What a wonderful way to describe that internal compass that we all try to instill in our children. I’m very proud of Griffin- but not surprised. I wish Christopher were with him this week.

  11. misa Says:

    I loved this piece, complex, touchy, and handled with grace. My kids are at White Pines too this week but are younger than yours. Nice to meet you last night, unfortunately I won’t be there next week since we’ll be for most of August. But I hope to see you at the studio and I check back at your blog.

  12. Denise Earle Says:

    …starting my day with, heartfelt and kindness.
    A pleasure to read.

  13. susan Says:

    Susan — You’ve done it again — and what an outstanding subject you are raising! He rocks! I’m so blessed to be a part of your lives. Keep it up!

  14. Dani Says:

    This is a beautiful piece of writing… one that I am glad I ended my day with. Thank you.

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