Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Power of Influence

When the phones work, I love to speak with my wife and kids. Too often there’s not a good connection; the phones don’t work well or I’m cut off in the middle of a conversation.

But the other day I got through and, in time, she asked, “What did you do to Twenty-two?” We have developed code numbers for our kids so they can’t tell we’re talking about them. It’s a pretty sophisticated system too. It will take a few more years for them to figure it out even though we can’t spell anything in front of them anymore.

“What do you mean?” I asked. I realized she was near the kids since she had used the code.

“Just a minute,” she said, walking into the other room. When she got far enough way she went on. “He doesn’t want to eat apple sauce. He said you don’t like it so he doesn’t want any. That used to be his favorite. He ate it everyday.”

“What do you mean? I like apple sauce.” I rebutted. And then she explained the glob of putrid goop in the fridge I took a bite of when I went back on my visit. “That wasn’t apple sauce. It was labeled strawberry or something, and it was awful. I took one bite and spit it into the sink. It didn’t have any real food it in, and—”

“Well, he won’t eat it now.” She paused. “And, did you tell him you don’t like lunch meat?”


“He said you don’t like lunch meat.”

“Sure I do,” I said, struggling to think of what I may have said, but I gave up quickly. “I don’t recall saying that.” A suave lying politician couldn’t have said it better, but I was telling the truth.

All the while I thought of the people whom I influence most: my kids, my boys especially. A poem by an unknown author popped into mind.

A careful man I ought to be
A little boy follows me
I dare not ever go astray
For fear he’ll go the self same way.

I must remember as I go,
Through summers heat and winter’s snow
I’m building for the years to be
The little chap who follows me

I cannot once escape his eyes,
What ere he sees me do he tries.
Like me he says he’s going to be
This little chap who follows me.

I’ve thought a lot about it, and I don’t want to urge or lead my sons into military service. Before my step dad died, he sent me a letter describing in detail the difficulties I could face if I joined the military—I’d have to work holidays and weekends; I’d have to work long hours and shift work; I’d be separated from family for extended periods of time. It was the last quality communication I had with him before he left this groveling sphere.

When I told my once-estranged father that I would be heading over to Iraq, his reply was one of gloom and sorrow for me. He had suffered through Vietnam.

Led by my strong urging and completely supported by my wife, we don’t allow our children to play inane or aggressive video games with fighting, guns or killing. We don’t let them watch violent movies or violent television, nor do we watch that ourselves—at least the real violent stuff anyway. We do not want them to become eager to fight, or bellicose. I’ve always appreciated those who could make peace and live in harmony. I’d like that for me, my wife and children, and our future posterity…forever. Wouldn’t that be great?!

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