My son and I went for a seven mile hike last weekend. It started as a fishing trip and ended with sore legs.
My son enjoys fishing.
Me, not so much. Although, I do enjoy watching my son enjoy fishing.
I woke early and roused him out of bed on a Saturday morning. We usually spend some time together for birthday dates and a month had passed since his birthday. This fishing trip was to be his birthday date with dad. I figured that he would fish while I watched and we could enjoy being outdoors together. Nature provided plenty of delights. Birds were plentiful. We saw ducks, geese, hawks, swans, vultures, and a bald eagle.
As much as my son likes to fish, he likes it best when the fish are biting. Apparently, the fish weren’t hungry last Saturday. After an hour and a half I could tell he was getting bored. I didn’t want his birthday date to be a flop, so I suggested a hike. The nearby trail runs along the back side of the lake and out through some farmland. I had hiked it last spring with my daughter.
My son took me up on the suggestion. We put away the fishing gear and headed for the trail head.
Looking at the trail map, I said, “Let’s go to the two mile mark and back.”
Well, you know how these things go. At the two mile mark we were feeling good and figured we should press on to the three mile mark. At three miles we could have turned back the way we had come. But then we would have hiked six of the seven miles.
“If we are going to hike six miles, we might as well hike all seven so that we can say we did.”
My son agreed.
Walking along that trail, I found myself at a loss for how to use the time most effectively. I was enjoying nature and the physical activity, but we walked in relative silence. The quiet broken by such exclamations as, “Look, a hawk,” or “How many steps do you think we take every mile?”
There is a time to speak and a time to remain silent. I was feeling the tension between enjoying a quiet walk with my son and using the time to speak to the next generation. I didn’t know what to say. I desired to say something profound, something that my son would remember when he hiked with his son many years from now.
Nothing. My mind was blank.
Remembering how children love stories, I decided to tell a story or two while we walked. My stories might not contain valuable life lessons, but they would be a way to communicate the life of one generation to the next.
And so my story began, “I remember one time when…”
I started a second story, “Did I ever tell you about the time when…”
Stories have a way of teaching the culture and values of one generation to the next. Told with prudence and wisdom, they are containers of truth, carriers of knowledge, and catalysts of change.
He listened as we walked. The stories weren’t long; they were light, adventurous, boyish. But they were true. They told my son about parts of his fathers life; they told the parts I want him to know, the parts I want him to learn from. If I told them well, he will learn from my stories and not know he has learned, he will grow and not know he has grown.
He thought we were just hiking.