As evening softly fell we stood on the back porch of Kyle and Elizabeth’s little cottage in the dunes trying to make ourselves leave. Kyle went inside and came out with a small box. It was gift for me.
“When I saw this I wanted you to have it.”
He has great prospects for a lucrative sales career, but right now I now he and Elizabeth are very careful with their money. The gift was a sacrifice. I opened the box and within was a small figurine of a dad on one knee with his arm around a small boy. It could have been he and I fifteen years ago.
He included a sweet letter with expressions of love to intimate to share. He closed the letter with these words: “I found this small gift in Rockford at the Great Northern Trading Company. I hope when you see it you will remember those times we had together and the time you are still yet to have with Dan, Wes, and Chuk. I love you, Dad. Kyle”
I put the little figure on my desk right beside my computer monitor. It will help me shut down my PC and get on the bikes and take hikes and walks with the boys more often. It will get me out the door more often to have coffee with the beautiful young women my little girls have become. It will remind me to set my “all important work” aside and read to little Hope America while she is still small enough to sit on my lap.
One day a few months before Kyle married we were out spending some time together. I expressed some concern about how differently we were raising Dan and Wes compared to the way he and Chuk were raised.
“You remember you were raised on a farm. You had dogs, ran in clover and mint, shot pellet guns, waded in the creek, and rode a toboggan down the hill into our front yard. You had barns and woods and rivers to explore within walking distance. We lived on a dead-end road. These guys are growing up in a hotel in Flint. I just don’t know if it’s good for them.”
The car was silent for a while then Kyle said; “Dad I saw an AD on TV once. A man was standing with a boy in an art gallery. They were looking at a work of abstract art. A voice came on and said; ?It’s not so important what you do. Just get out and do something together.’ I think that’s true, Dad.
Immediately I know he had spoken the truth and it lightened my heart.
I get the boys out. We’ve spent nights out of doors, watched the moon rise and the sun set, listened to the call of the loon on the evening ai,. We have waded in the cold waters of four of the Great Lakes. We have awakened to the patter of rain buried luxuriously under five hotel blankets in our cozy tent. We’ve paddled kyaks and canoes and even once manned a sailboat. We’ve swum in lakes clear enough to provide drinking water. We’ve stood on an autumn night and watched colorful hot air balloons drift across the sky. We’ve listened to honking geese overhead. We’ve hiked around lakes together in the spring of the year when the ice is still on the water.
One cold morning in Ludington we ran in a race together. The course ran along our shimmering blue Lake Michigan so bold and beautiful it takes your breath away even before you plunge into its cold water.
Up the cost of Michigan we’ve climbed the sand of the Great Sleeping Bear. We’ve explored waterfalls and lighthouses and sampled baked-goods from a little bakery on the shore of Superior run by men from a seminary. We’ve gazed out over the water from Pyramid Point and Empire Bluff. We’ve had coffee from Rockford and Fishtown and Cherries from Traverse City. We’ve spoken and sung in camps and conferences and churches all over the state.
We’ve waded through snow up to our waist that had fallen all weekend burying our warm cabin like a chalet in the Alps. We’ve listened to birdsong and dawn and at dusk from wispy northern pines. We’ve seen deer bounding away through the forest from our mountain bikes and our cross-country skis. We’ve seen fawns in the meadow and watering on the margin of a like at dawn. We’ve seen a sky full of stars over acres and acres of water. We are still waiting to see a live bear and the aurora borealis, but we’ve enjoyed watching for them.
The hotel isn’t all bad. In it they have a floor full of Christian older brothers. We’ve had informal worship out in the hall with guitars and songs and prayer until near midnight. They have had some lessons in humanity from the streets of Flint. They have had lessons in racial harmony, the ravages of sinful life-choices, the brevity and fragile nature of life, and a continual stream of human need and ministries and Christian service opportunities all around them. They have met people from all over the world.
My boys do live in a big hotel in a small city, but if I turn off my cell phone and log off my computer often enough they will grow up to be fine men, like their big brother. That’s my prayer.
Riverfront Character Inn
August 21, 2005 (Re-posted September 8, 2010)