A Duel to Remember

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I’m a born and raised small town, picket fence, barefoot in the summer kind of guy. My hometown was so small that the last one to go to bed turned out the streetlight. We had no locks on our doors. After all, what if a neighbour needed something while we were gone? If my mom ran out of salt for the soup, she’d send me across the street with a measuring cup, and I’d return with salt and some peppermints. Ah, those were the days. I still live in a small sneeze-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of town. It’s home.

One perk is that I walk home for lunch. In the winter I gaze through the kitchen window, munching a tuna sandwich, hoping my wife will let me back into the house.

When my son was in high school I walked past his school with lunch on my mind. His class was hitting golf balls around a field. The Phys Ed instructor called me over and challenged me to a duel with one of her students. Whoever hit a ball closest to an orange cone would be the recipient of a soda at the other’s expense. He handed me a club that Noah used on the Ark. I swung. And lost. Badly.

Walking home, I wondered how many more years my son would be standing among his classmates, feeling just a little bit proud of his dad for making a fool of himself.

Grabbing my wallet, I drove 8 blocks to the grocery store. Half an hour later I pulled cans from a cooler and watched students gulp a 24-pack in record time. “Thanks, Mr. Callaway,” they kept saying, “that was cool.”

Sometimes children remember the big things: the trip to Disneyland, the plane ride to another time zone. I think Stephen will remember the time he was glad a classmate beat his dad.

One of the greatest tragedies of a speeded-up world is that we are less available to be surprised by the spontaneous. We make ourselves unavailable for a kind word, a game of chess, the sound of a child’s laugh.

We should take our cues from Jesus, who had time to hold children on his lap, who gave small things great significance in the kingdom. So slow down and hug a child. Make sure it’s your child. And if you find one standing on your front door with a measuring cup, fill it with peppermints and send him home.

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