The whole thing had come about because this particular child hadn’t exactly been living as a model family member. Let’s just say there had been quite a string of not-so-stellar choices. Nothing earth-shattering, but just a general air of disrespect. And that morning, I’d been pushed too far. I also knew the old consequences weren’t going to cut it.
“I need a list,” I said, “and it needs to be sincere. If I detect it’s not — and you know I’ll know whether it is — then we’ll bump up the consequence to (x).”
The child most definitely didn’t want “x,” the fall-back punishment. I explained more about what the list needed to encompass in general — 10 things about our family this child appreciated — and walked away, and waited.
After a while, I was beginning to wonder whether the list was going to transpire. I took a deep breath and got ready to implement the fall-back punishment, but really wanting to see what the list might include, I gave one warning that we were nearing the end of the time limit for the production of this collection of thoughts. And at the final hour, it appeared by way of an email message, which included a screen shot of a list fashioned in the modern way of doing things — by phone.
I know this child well enough to have assessed the list as sincere. Though it had arrived close to the wire, given everything that was transpiring in the days before and after, I considered it good.
And not only good, but healing. Was this just a case of a child saying what a parent wanted to hear? Maybe. But I don’t really think so. I think at least a little thought went into its concoction. I perceive the list as having come from the heart of a child truly thinking, if only just for a burst, about what life would be like in the absence of the provisions that are too easily taken for granted, because, well, it’s an easy thing to do, is it not? Take the things we do for one another, and even just the presence of one another in our lives, for granted?
The list, especially the last entry, brought so many thoughts to mind, but mainly the glad realization that underneath all of the scowling and huffing, the child, in a moment of reckoning, was able to recognize under all the tired layers of deflection the truth that though we didn’t necessarily choose one another, we are family, and where else, really, would we go? Oh, we might travel far away from each other at times, and maybe for very long spans, but how far do we really go from the place where we began and the people who surrounded us first and foremost?
I have heard friends speak this way about their experiences within our church community in times of temporary disillusionment. But in the end, they, too, have concluded, “Where else would we go?”
To Christians, it’s a familiar thought, which we find articulated in John 6:67-68. “You don’t want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
We can’t answer why we ended up with this particular motley crew, and most of the time, we can think of many places we’d rather be than with the ones in front of us. And yet…there’s so much to this idea that where we’re supposed to be is right here, in this moment, with these people — the ones who love us, even if imperfectly.
Where else would we go? Indeed. It came from a list I didn’t want to require, but in the end, gave me all kinds of fresh hope; for this child, for our family, for our world.
Q4U: When did you last ask, “Where else could I go?”