This one is for the parents of teenagers and soon-to-be teenagers. It’s another tale from my high school and college years. It’s about another friend of mine, John. In high school he was quite the popular cutup, given as many of us were to hard partying. He went from being the bright, mischievous cutup, to college graduate, to law school, to husband and father, to practicing attorney (in his father’s footsteps), and to Federal judge. He’s many years dead now; may he rest in peace.
One summer, probably between our junior and senior years in high school, at Gilchrist, a beach town on the Texas gulf coast, one of those “what happens in Gilchrist stays in Gilchrist” places with not-fancy-at-all beach houses up on pilings, a few combination food, beer and bait stores, and teenagers being teenagers – not vandals at all, just exuberant and free – enjoying driving up and down the two lane highway that led to Galveston, John has a little fender bender pulling in or out of one those little stores. Nothing serious, no one hurt, but John might have been in his parent’s car and, life experienced as he was, this was a new one. The other driver was an older man – middle aged, I’d say – and it is clearly his fault. He ran into John. Still, John is shaken by it; mind racing. What happened? How? And he is off balance a bit by this sudden confrontation with a grown up. It is early in the day. John hasn’t had anything to drink. There’ll be beer parties in the afternoon; he was probably there to buy some, but, fortunately, not yet.
It’s a small accident, but enough that the Texas Highway Patrol is on the way. The other driver says to John. “You look pretty shaken up, kid. Are you all right? You look like you could use a drink.” And he offers his flask to John to take a swig, just to calm down, mind you. And John is shaken, and he’s no stranger to the hard stuff. He takes the flask. And he raises it to his lips, and suddenly thinks. “The cops are on the way. Do I really want to smell like I’ve been drinking?” And he gives it back, silently cursing the man for this attempt to shift the blame to the kid, and amazed at his own presence of mind in avoiding the trap.
“Parents, teach your children well.” (Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young) “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Jesus, according to Matthew 10:16)
Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, 29-April-2014.