Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Worry and children

Cormac McCarthy's 2007 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Road, tells a dark and dreadful story about a man and his young son.  The pair find themselves on the road, literally, making their way across a hostile, unforgiving landscape burned out presumably by a catastrophic event of universal proportions. 

Darkness prevails in every moment, around every turn in the story, save for the love of the man for his son and that of the son for his father.  Their relationship, based on the fact that they "carry the light," provides the only relief from the prevailing dreadfulness. 

The passage below provides important insight into the place of worry and anxiety in the lives of children, no matter how small, young or seemingly unaware of difficult surrounding circumstances. 

This narrative sadly reminded me of so many children in the inner city.  It follows an encounter the man and the boy experienced with a thief who made off with all their belongings.  After catching the thief and taking their possessions back, the man sent the now naked thief away.  The young boy now worries about the fate of the thief.  The conversation between the man and  his son begins. . .

He's not gone, the boy said.  He looked  up.  His face streaked with soot.  He's not.

What do you want to do?

Just help him, Papa.  Just help him.

The man looked back up the road.

He was just hungry, Papa.  He's going to die.

He's going to die anyway.

He's so scared, Papa.

The man squatted and looked at him.  I'm scared, he said.  Do you understand?  I'm scared.

The boy didn't answer.  He just sat there with his head bowed, sobbing.

You're not the one who has to worry about everything. 

The boy said something but he couldn't understand him.  What? he said.

He looked up, his wet and grimy face.  Yes I am, he said.  I am the one. 

The anxiety, the fear of our children must assume a place among our most pressing concerns as we do our work.

What do you think?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's an interesting analogy, Larry, and one I missed. I have heard stories that made me wonder how the person telling it gets out of bed in the morning, as well as been in homes that smelled of decay and had holes in the floors. In both cases I was instantly overwhelmed by a sense of helplessness and hopelessness very much like the feeling I got from the movie. In a very real sense those in severe poverty already live in a post-apocalyptic world.