At Dapayan “down” a father and his son were just sitting there waiting for their food, and but for a prayer when it came, saying NOTHING the whole time. How sad! I thought, couldn’t the dad at least ask his son a question or two? A picture of alienation, reminding me of another alienation in a restaurant, long ago:
Prayer, In a Dry Season
The music is gone, Lord.
and all I’m hearing is the dull murmurs of other hungry souls
small-talking in this crowded place.
‘Tis not your table, Lord, laden with delicacies
in the presence of my enemies.1
Do they give you a thought, Lord?
Right now, I’d rather not.
My wife walked out of here, after my harsh look,
to go pout in the car. And I am left alone
to nurse my wounds—without food or drink—
at an empty table, watching a soap on the tube
with the sound off.
Is this life, Lord?
You who pursue one to the heights and the depths2
are you here at this flat table, in this crowded café?
Is it really true, Lord, that nothing can separate us
from your love? 3 How about anger, nothingness,
boredom, and waiting?
Can you really “redeem the time being from insignificance” 4
when the time being is a holding pattern at an empty table?
Forgive me, sir, I wonder if you died for nothingness.
Please make my dry bones and dead soul live. 5
1. Ps. 23. 2. Ps. 139; Romans 8:37-39. 3. Rom. 8:35
4. W.H. Auden, “For the Time Being” 5. Ezek. 37
An argument with my wife led to the silent treatment, big time.
Maybe the dad was doing the same thing.
Like my wife and me, he seemed to be neither accepting or loving.
More likely, he never learned some things about communicating with children:
1. BE CURIOUS. Let yourself be interested in your kids, try to imagine what’s going on in their world, the way they see it. Draw them out, attentive to their body language.
2. BE ACCEPTING. Don’t be a “critical parent”, quick to correct or scold your child. For awhile, at least, be a friend. Proverbs 18:24 says “In times of hardship a friend stays closer than a brother.” Kids have hardships, too, and should be able to unburden themselves with a caring parent, who’s like a friend, not a cold “bump on a log” or a judge.
3. LISTEN. My dear brothers and sisters, . . .: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, (James 1: 19) Remember, God who is love, is like that, and as parents we should patiently embody that truth for our children. (E.g., Wow, Johnny, that sounds_____________________! Tell me more about that . . .)
4. BE APPROPRIATELY SELF-DISCLOSING. You can convey acceptance and empathy by sharing a personal experience which may be similar to your child’s.
P.S. I want to have a series of columns on parents working abroad. I would love to get your comments on this, at firstname.lastname@example.org.