The boy ran and ran and ran.
Behind him, the man walked steadily, absorbed in thought, down the desolate stretch of beach that led to the tall dune.
“C’mon, Daddy, " cried the boy and kept running.
The boy tested his limits and periodically fell, crashing into the sand on his head or his shoulders.
The man said nothing, pretended to ignore him, knowing that to acknowledge the plight would invite the tears.
The boy picked himself up, brushed off a few grains and set out again, charging along the shore.
The man did not lack compassion. If anything, he felt too much, carried far more weight than he needed, his own inner struggle with penance and the difficulty in drawing the line between responsibility and guilt for past transgressions.
He had tasted many failures, sat often at the table of sorrow and drank from the bitter cup of disappointment that left an acrid, sickly grumbling in the pit of his stomach.
He tried, though not always successfully, to take the lesson with him from each experience.
Often, there was nothing else left.
In his son, the man saw the future.
He determined to let the boy learn on his own, to forge his own strength of character one small challenge at a time, to gain confidence that the number of falls mattered little, that he could always rise and begin again. Stoic, the man looked straight ahead and refused to let himself meet the boy’s eyes after each tumble.
They reached the dune. The boy scuttled up its side like a crab, as fast as he could.
The man plodded to the top and squatted.
He watched the boy perform multiple antics, leaping down the dune like a goat and hurdling himself down the steepest parts onto his stomach in an effort to become a human surf board.
Over and over, the boy reached the bottom and returned for another round, trying new moves and maneuvers. The man encouraged him and praised his efforts regardless of outcome.
What could he do to give his boy the best chance?
How could he help the most without getting in the way, without being over-protective yet also without ignoring the need for nurturing, kindness and compassion?
The man pondered this at great length.
As usual, he drew few conclusions, only a yearning to do his part as a steward.
Though he could conceive of nothing more important, he tempered his desire to interfere and tinker with the slow and gradual process. He bit his tongue and dug for patience—a virtue that eluded him even though he understood its value and fought within himself to bring it forth. He would step aside but not very far.
The boy discovered a fresh trick.
He rolled sideways off the upper ridge and gathered steam on the way down, faster and faster, until his legs became tangled. At peak speed he lost his angle and buried his cheeks into the sand.
The boy glanced up, his face full of grief, the pivotal moment before his eyes welled up and the sobs burst out.
The man had already glanced away, cast his gaze across the water and feigned unawareness.
The boy spit, brushed his forehead with the back of his hand, shook his hair and spent a few seconds checking in with himself.
He frowned then began to climb.
In stillness, the man smiled.
That’s A View From The Ridge…
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