Tuesday, January 20, 2004

It Is Good To Have A Son

It was cold Sunday
afternoon in downtown Dallas. I met my son, James, in
the lobby of a favorite hotel where we would later watch
Katy, my eldest daughter and James' sister, get married.
We sat in the lobby and our conversation wandered from
the wedding to the weather and then to America, our
country that leads the world in rate of divorce, teenage
pregnancy, rate of incarceration, and boasts the highest
crime rate of any industrialized nation in the world.
James knows America is a nation where the poor are
getting poorer relative to the rich who enjoy an ever
growing and massively disproportionate share of wealth.
He knows because I remind him.

It is good to have
son you can talk to about things that

We'd had the conversation many times,
perhaps too many times, but James was raised to be
socially conscious, aware, and empathatic to the plight
of those who struggle, to include the 840 million people
who will go to bed hungry tonight on our

It is good to have a son who

"Dad," James interrupted my litany of
numbers and comparisons. "It is all true, but we can't
change it. All any of us can do is a little something to
make it better. That's what I want to talk about. I saw
something today that reminded me of how random kindness
can be, how you can just stop and make something

I listened while my son recounted
standing on the balcony outside his room on the third
floor. "I was just looking down at the street and I
noticed two guys across the street -- one was in a
wheelchair and the other was standing beside him wearing
nothing but a t-shirt. They were both pretty ragged,
homeless I suspect and I just stood there and watched
them for a few minutes. Suddenly, the traffic in one
lane stopped. A guy in a Jeep stopped right in front of
these two, put on his flashers, and got out. The car
behind him started honking but he ignored it and walked
over to the two homeless men. He asked the guy in the
t-shirt something, but I couldn't make out what it was,
and then he took off his leather coat and gave it to
him. Without saying another word, he pulled out his
wallet and I could see him peeling bills off and he
stuffed them into the hand of each man. Then he walked
back and opened the rearend of his Jeep and pulled out a
big blanket which he gave to the guy in the wheelchair.
He walked back to his door reached into the Jeep and I
could see he came out with something else in his hand.
It was a couple of packs of cigarettes and he gave them
each a pack, leaned down and whispered something to the
man in the wheelchair, shaked the other guy's hand, got
into the Jeep and was gone. I watched the two men on the
sidewalk and even from where I was standing I could see
they were stunned, talking excitedly, both animated, the
one looking down at his new coat smiling, and helping
wrap the blanket around his buddy in the wheelchair.
After not too many minutes, they began moving down the
street, one pushing himself along in the chair and the
other walking beside him."

James' eyes were wet
and a tear ran down my cheek.

It is good to be
able to cry with your son and feel no

"I tell you this story, Dad,
because it strikes me that we can't change the
statistics we always discuss. America is, indeed, in
trouble. But, what we can change is one life, maybe two,
maybe ten. It depends on how much opportunity we have,
but mostly how much opportunity we'll take. In the end,
it is a small percentage of the whole that any one
person can help, but it is a 100% of the lives you
change. That's the way I see it."

It is also good
to have a son from whom you learn.


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