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Leaves turning …

I was busy at the kitchen table when my young son quietly asked me to do something with him. He wanted my attention and time. I got a bright idea. The weather was not as hot as it had been, so I sent him out to the yard to find five different leaves for me. He spun around and ran away from me, joyfully running outside – he didn’t even slow to put on his shoes. There; he was doing something that would probably lead to other distractions, and I could continue my work. It is odd how some of my terrible plans can become lessons learned.

My son was gone for only a little while. Suddenly five green leaves were proudly laid on my paperwork. He had done exactly as I had suggested, so I had to act pleased. I inspected his treasure. Three leaves were obviously different – sharp edges versus smooth, long and thin versus short and broad, roundish versus oak-like. But, I had to point out that two leaves were the same except one was far larger than the other. My son coolly said that the two were different.

I explained at length that the edges, color, stems, veins, and feel were all the same. He conceded, “Yes, they are the same, but they are still different.” It wasn’t his words that caught me off guard. He was looking at me, not the leaves, when he spoke.

It was his bed time so the conversation did not go on. After a while I couldn’t concentrate on my work. His eyes and words were nagging at me. I finally had to step outside to clear my head. I saw where he must have gotten the two leaves. A branch of a tree had fallen because of a recent wind storm. My son had not chosen a brown, dry leaf within easy reach. He had stretched way up to pick two from a live branch. I stood there for a long time because his youthful insight had finally creaped into my mind. I thought that I had arbitrarily chosen the number five. There are five members to my household. My wife and two daughters are different. Are my son and I all that different?

I am older than my son and my season on this earth is closer to winter than his. But, I have not yet reached the dried-up stage as on the fallen branch, have I? How many different ways will his life branch away from mine? My leaf is a little more chewed on; by some bugs that crawled into my life without my consent and by some bugs that I stupidly invited in. How many times do I gladly run away to find other distractions? How many times do I slow down from doing something really important; to hesitate long enough to do something as stupid as putting on my shoes? My leaf will someday be like those on the broken branch. My son’s leaf is still green and smooth.

My son was more right than I was. The leaves were the same, but they were also different. With each passing day they are more and more different. My quick lesson was in comparing things like leaves, yet he taught me the far more important lesson.

The next time that I send my son away, I will go with him.