October 24, 2013


They tumbled out of their van, exuberance and innocence written on their faces—a preteen girl and her younger brother, followed by an older gentleman. 

“Grandpa, where’s the bread for the birds?” 

I looked up from my writing and looked at them, then at my teen son fishing from the pier.

The children captured the attention of all around with their innocent laughter and enthusiasm.

The two removed the day-old bread from its wrapper and passed it between them. They tore off tiny bits and tossed them with abandon to the birds quickly gathering at the pier.

Before long, a mixed flock of fowl gathered near them, drawing giggles from the pair, as they tried to tear up the bread as quickly as they could.

“Feed this one,” the boy said, pointing to a young ring-billed. “Listen to him, Karli, he sounds the hungriest.”

“So does this one,” she replied. The children were now picking out individual birds, trying to carefully aim the bread at each one.

I noticed the grandfather chatting with an older gentleman, his jaunty hat perched at an angle. “Is there more, Grandpa?” The young lad ran down the pier and tugged at his grandpa’s hand.

31 1 9“More? Bread? Oh, sure.” He nodded at his companion, then rummaged around in the back of their van, finally emerging with more. “Look, Grandpa!” The smile of delight on the boy’s face would be hard to duplicate. “Look how hungry he is.”

“Stop!” the grandpa bellowed. “Don’t feed those dirty gulls!” 

All heads on the pier turned his way.

“Don’t feed them. They’re dirty. Feed only the ducks,” he implored. The kids soon obeyed.

“Get. Get away, you dirty birds!” The words were no longer innocent, no longer sweet. I watched as the young girl stomped her foot at the gulls while her brother chased them from the pier. An activity that started with enthusiasm and innocent fun quickly changed.

Once, while shopping for an aquarium, I heard a clerk explaining that fish grow according to the size of their environment. The bigger the aquarium, and the fewer the fish, the bigger they can grow. I thought about these children now, remembering that children also grow in response to their environment.

And then I thought about a well-known story in the Bible of a little man, hanging tightly to a sycamore limb with anticipation and fear etched on his face.

At the words of the One passing under the tree, he quickly came down, all because of the attitude of His Savior toward him.

The children returned to the van, but their laughter was gone. They buckled in and drove off frowning.

I called my son from his fishing and, right there on the pier, gave him a hug.

“Having fun?”

“Sure am,” he smiled back.

“Catch anything?”

“You want to see?” He tipped his head at me.

“You bet.”

He smiled all the way back to his pole, and into the rest of his day.