She’s a scholar of the Old Testament and her reading glasses sit on her nose, and then she takes them off, and then they’re on again, and she’s talking about hope and my son Jonathan is here in the group of adults because he has asked if can stay.
The rest of the seven-year-olds, known as Scampers, are being told some other story more suitable for their age up in the dining hall loft, while other kids are at the lakefront or outside somewhere near the tennis courts, maybe, or on some rock under a pine.
But we’re in the chapel, my son and me, the two of us having some father-son time at this camp for a few days; Jon’s sisters, with My Bride, are at home some hours away having their own time.
And after the worship, now in the evening coolness at this camp we’re listening to this scholar talk about the Old Testament story of Ruth, a story of hope if there ever was one.
It’s all in a Muskoka chapel that I haven’t been here for some years. But just sitting in the place — its name is Crossroads — brings memories of some of the most hopeful moments in my own life, hope for a future, really, more than anything, the sort of hope that Ruth had as a young foreigner in a strange land, a foreigner unsure of what might come next, but one who had made her choice to leave the familiarity of home behind.
Nobody really knows this, not the scholar and not Jonathan, whose head is sometimes against my shoulder and sometimes on my lap. What Jonathan does know is that the day has already been full of biking in the woods and swimming and the Tuck Shop, and Daddy has been here before, yes, Daddy has brought him to this place that Daddy used to volunteer at many years ago.
I’m afraid that he’s not getting all that much out of the scholarly teaching, though, and he really should be with the rest of the Scampers, but then the speaker talks about hope again and she says that when she’s finished we should all go and talk to our children and ask them if they have a hope in their own future and, if they do, then why? It will be interesting to hear what they say, she tells us.
Jonathan sits up and tries to tell me something right there, but it’s only later outside when we have the space and I ask him about it.
‘I have hope in my future because I’m here,’ he says.
‘What do you mean?’ I say.
‘Well you used to come here and then you had a good future. Now I’m here. So that means that I’m going to have a good future too.’
And this, it seems, is how the blessings, just like the curses, of fathers can be passed from generation to generation. This is what the prophets of old used to say. From generation to generation, the blessings and the hope are passed down from the Lord’s own hand. And often at one crossroads or another.
But they’re somehow in our hands too, just like the lack of hope and those curses, and the indifference which is maybe the biggest curse of all, is in our hands to pass down from generation to generation.
In a way, it’s a mystery how it all unfolds. In another way, even a little seven-year-old Scamper can get it.