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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Is Your Ear On The Track?

by Seattle Jon (bio)

image by Seattle Jon, taken at Teddy Bear Cove
A few weeks ago, we welcomed a seven year-old boy into our home. After nearly five years of trying to adopt, Jonny is a long-awaited addition and a blessing we were beginning to doubt would ever happen. Needless to say, his presence had an immediate impact on us.

My wife and I had driven alone to pick up Jonny in Portland while a good friend watched our other three children. After arriving home and giving him a quiet tour of our house, we took Jonny to have dinner at our friends’ house. They live on the ocean, so the kids (our four, their two) asked me to take them across the railroad tracks and up the beach to a shelter someone had built. The first thing I did once we exited their yard was to show Jonny how to listen for trains by putting his ear on the track.

After an hour of playing, we started back. The two oldest boys were already up the beach, past the stairs leading up to the tracks. They yelled that they’d climb the rocks and wait for us. Looking south, the tracks are visible for miles and miles and I didn’t see any trains. Turning north, the tracks bend out of sight a few hundred yards up the beach. Not seeing or hearing anything there either, I gave them a thumbs up and marched the remaining four kids up the stairs and onto the tracks for the short walk back to the house.

The first thing Jonny did was put his ear on the track, then to my surprise he said, “I hear a train.”

My first thought, despite having taught him to do just this an hour earlier, was, “Does that even work?” I dismissed the thought and told the kids to be quiet. After a few seconds, I too heard the train and knew it was close. I yelled at the four kids with me to get down onto the beach and turned to find the two older boys.

To my horror, I saw them playing on the first set of tracks as I sensed the train coming around the corner. I screamed and waved for them to get off the tracks, not knowing if my voice would be heard over the train. Fortunately, they understood the direction I was telling them to go and they moved quickly down to the beach.

Now, it wasn't like we all dove out of the way, but internally I was freaking out. I had missed/ignored warning signs and feelings that my thirty-seven years of experience should have alerted me to. Coming on the heels of hearing about this, the experience left me shaken.

I've thought a lot about the experience over the last few weeks, especially Jonny's role in keeping his ear on the track. It was such a small and simple act, yet made a huge difference in the outcome. It made me think ... am I teaching my kids to perform enough of the small and simple acts - prayer and daily reading of good works come to mind - that might make a huge difference in the outcome of their lives?

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