Walking by the lake, passing parents and children in various states: excited, tense, sleepy. It was an idyllic scene streaming by. Calming. Reassuring. The world was as it should be.
Exiting this oasis I came across a small child being held by the hand by his father.
This child was in tears. Angry tears. Fearful tears? “GET OFF. GET OFF! GET OFF, GET OFF, GET OFF.” Screaming at the top of his voice.
This was the school run. The father’s face was set like concrete. The other parent’s faces showed a certain kind of mixed tension: resentful, understanding, condemnatory.
You can’t interfere in scenes like these. You just can’t.
You can only replay it later in your mind.
You stop the man with a stern glance and a forefinger held before him: one minute. He stops and the child is pulled to a halt beside him by that hand holding firmly. You crouch to bring your face level to that of the child. In wonder and surprise his tears vanish like mist in sudden sunshine. You take the child by his shoulders and, seeing that his progeny is safe in the presence of this mysterious stranger, the man releases him into your charge. You share a moment of calm knowing with this extraordinary child then, as the flicker of a smile reaches his face, you bend towards him and whisper in his ear: “the thing you are afraid of does not really exist.” He nods as you pull away, hesitantly smiles as you give his shoulders a warm squeeze through his coat and then grins shyly up as you stand and hold his gaze. You step aside and the pair: father and son, now in harmony, resume their journey to school, walking side by side; together and yet independent. You smile and walk on.
You stop the bloke and whisper in his ear: “the thing you are afraid of does not really exist.” His face undergoes a radical transformation as he realises the role of a father in the life of a son. Visibly shrugging off his rigidity he looks down into the face of his beloved son and then, deliberately releases his hand. Finding his longed for freedom finally granted the boy stands for a moment, caught in indecision: run back or move forward? Looking up into his father’s face for the guidance that he had been rejecting just a moment ago he found a smiling face of acceptance and love. He smiled, reached out with his tiny hand and took that of his father. You step aside and the happy pair step forward into the future.
You walk on and after a few minutes of deep reflection stop for a moment and say quietly to yourself: “the thing you are afraid of does not really exist.” Then, a hesitant smile working it’s way towards your heart, you resume your journey home.