A Hand Is Put Into Theirs...
And the Hand May Be a Little Child's

We all walk down our yellow brick roads of life. Often our journey is filled with joys and often we walk through miles of sadness. However, that dichotomy is a given. If you are alive, be happy with living even during the less than happy times on your journey.

Life's Yellow Brick Road

Life's Yellow Brick Road

If you are very fortunate during a few moments of your long journey in life, you will be holding the hand of a small child. Those moments are some of the greatest moments on your journey. A small child trusts you to help him or her at the beginning of their yellow brick road of their life. I have walked with my three children and loved those moments, but that was when I was young. Today, I am older and so are my children. As an old man, I am now walking with grandchildren.

Ayanna was my first grandchild. She wanted to explore Wolverton Mountain where I lived. When this photo was taken, she was not even an 18-month toddler. She had only a handful of months walking. Most of her life was spent being carried around and the rest crawling around. I remember looking at her determined desire to make it from my house to where Ra-Ra, her favorite raccoon, lived. Despite the early stages of mobility, she was unwavering on her desire to walk.

Al and Ayanna

Today, Ayanna is walking down her yellow brick road as a sophomore in college. She understands walking. She is well aware of both the happy and sad times in her journey as an adult.

As she walked from the beginning on Wolverton Mountain to college, I also continued my walk through life. In the past half dozen years of my walk, I have danced with death a couple times on my journey. I fully realize that I am not immortal as I once thought when Ayanna and I explored her new world atop Wolverton Mountain.

Then four years ago, my second grandchild, Jack, entered my world and two years after that Owen came along. Things are radically different today from when Ayanna toddled around with me. While Jack, Owen and I explore their new worlds, there is something different, which haunts me.

Al and Jack

When Jack was around two, we walked along the shoreline of Lake Michigan at the Dunes National Park. Talk about a determined child. He can focus on something and begin the walk with the earnestness of some adults. In the past summer, we were walking along the White River in Indianapolis when he discovered a small garter snake, which we called a king cobra. The result of his find was an hour discussion between us about the snake, its eyes, its tongue, and how large that it might get. He took the snake home and then conveyed his learnings to his friends and to his brother, Owen.

Al and Owen

Owen is different from Ayanna and Jack. When we walk together, he is often very quiet and is somewhat meditative. We will talk about something. Then he thinks. Often when I explain something, he will repeat several words that I said. He is a like a two-year old walking computer. He gathers the data, stores it, and then retrieves it. Then he returns the data to his hard drive.

Al with Jack and Owen

On this day, Jack joined our walk. Jack will ask why to all sorts of things about which he does not fully understand. He will press me until the answer that I provide addresses what he does not understand. It is like what Saul Alinsky said about the darkness before the dawn, "We must believe that it is the darkest before the dawn of a beautiful new world. We will see it when we believe it." While darkness and doubts whirl around Jack's mind, he knows that understanding will arrive soon.

During our walk, Jack asks questions. Owen processes his learning...and if I listen carefully, Owen quietly repeats his learning. It is fascinating to watch Jack and Owen's methodology as they journey down their yellow brick roads.

While I thoroughly enjoyed my walks with Ayanna years ago and my walks with Jack and Owen now, I am haunted by the question why. I know that I am sounding like Jack with the why questions. However, it feels like there is something hauntingly present during those walks. Whenever I have a question about something, I will not rest until I resolve it to my satisfaction. Strangely, I sound like Jack. For example, I wonder whether walking with my grandchildren is reliving my walks with my children. However, I am much older now. This time, I feel like a type of graduate school parent, because life has educated me in the past forty years ago.

I also know that my time on my yellow brick road is limited...severely limited. I know that I probably will not be around when Jack and Owen enter their adulthood. Therefore, I want to help teach them about their journey and in the process love them. However, I am fully aware that I cannot waste the time remaining in my life.

Nevertheless, that is not all there is to that haunting feeling. Then it dawned upon me. When I was in high school, we had to memorize a couple hundred lines of prose and poetry each semester. To say that I hated that experience would be a gross understatement. Nonetheless, I still know parts and pieces of hundreds of line memorized over a half century ago. That curse of memorization has been during my life one of the greatest blessings. It has helped me to understand things more fully. Or as Steve Jobs says to connect the dots.

Silas Marner

Silas Marner

While pondering the haunting unsettledness in my gut, it came to me. I recalled George Eliot's novel, Silas Marner.

In old days there were angels who came and took men by the hand and led them away from the city of destruction. We see no white-winged angels now. But yet men are led away from threatening destruction: a hand is put into theirs, which leads them forth gently towards a calm and bright land, so that they look no more backward; and the hand may be a little child's.

 Silas and Eppie

Silas and Eppie

I also recalled William Wordsworth's poem, Michael,

...a child, more than all other gifts
That Earth can offer to declining man,
Brings hope with it, and forward-looking thoughts

Take time to walk with someone...especially small children as they explore their yellow brick road of life. It is one of the greatest blessings of life itself.

This is a video of Silas Marner with Ben Kinsley as Silas Marner.

Elton John also wrote about the yellow brick road.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

When are you gonna come down
When are you going to land
I should have stayed on the farm

I should have listened to my old man
You know you can't hold me forever
I didn't sign up with you
I'm not a present for your friends to open
This boy's too young to be singing the blues


So goodbye yellow brick road
Where the dogs of society howl
You can't plant me in your penthouse
I'm going back to my plough

Back to the howling old owl in the woods
Hunting the horny back toad
Oh I've finally decided my future lies
Beyond the yellow brick road
What do you think you'll do then
I bet that'll shoot down your plane
It'll take you a couple of vodka and tonics
To set you on your feet again
Maybe you'll get a replacement
There's plenty like me to be found
Mongrels who ain't got a penny
Sniffing for tidbits like you on the ground

On Seeing the Light

On Seeing the Light

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Connecting The Dots

Connecting the Dots

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Darkest Before Dawn

Darkest Before Dawn

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The Hand May Be a Little Child's

"The Hand May Be a Little Child's"

Visit the "The Hand May Be a Little Child's" page to read more about this topic.

An old man and his grandson

An Old Man and His Grandson

Visit The Mentors and Me page to read more about this topic.