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Getting Real Early On

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A family settled down for dinner at a restaurant. The waitress first took the order of the adults, then turned to the seven-year-old. “What will you have?” she asked? The boy looked around the table timidly, then ventured, “I would like to have a hot dog.” Before the waitress could write down the order, the mother interrupted. “No hot dogs,” she said. “Get him a steak with mashed potatoes and carrots.” “Do you want ketchup or mustard on your hot dog?” the waitress continued, without hesitation.

“Ketchup.”

“Coming right up,” replied the waitress, cheerily starting for the kitchen.

There followed a stunned silence at the table. Finally the boy looked at everyone present and blurted, “Know what? She thinks I’m real!”

There it is! No matter the age, seven or seventy, every one deserves respect, simply because we ARE REAL. Doesn’t that teaching travel all the way back to Sunday School?  “You are made in the image and likeness of God.”

Recently Jim and I viewed the Vietnam-era documentary entitled “Sir, No Sir”. We felt the inner jolt of soldiers creating mayhem in unarmed villages that finally, some could no longer deny the piercing evil flowing from their fixed bayonets. Atrocity after atrocity, these young men were inevitably brought around to higher moral ground. Hardened military discipline had to stand aside for pricked consciences. “No sir, I will not.”   

Only a few brave men resisted at first but soon the unheard-of action had spread. They began circulating a newsletter of war resistance.

Of course there was a price to pay; most suffered in military stockades, some eventually finding themselves dishonorably discharged. Finally even Washington could no longer deny what was happening; the Army was proving unreliable. It was then that the decision was made to carpet bomb Vietnam from the air.

Jim and I had never known this part of the Vietnam war, when so many of our young men courageously allowed their hearts to resonate with the ancient voice from Sunday School: “Thou Shalt Not Kill!” At last, American soldiers were seeing Vietnamese people as real. No longer could they fall for the Army’s worn cliches about winning a war.  

When I see a documentary like this, I weep. I’m pushed to ask God why so much money flows into our country’s war machine. These days every email I send out carries lines of a sagacious insight by one of our great military leaders warning of the rise of a ruinous military industrial complex. According to Dwight Eisenhower:  

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children . . . This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

At a Sanford restaurant table, I told that story of that little kid, who wanted a hot dog with ketchup.  There was no end to the insights that followed. Whether black or white, Asian or Hispanic, Republican or Democrat, we are all REAL.

As a former teacher of multiple grade levels, I discovered early that children are born with inner wisdom.  They possess a deep sense of fairness. I don’t mind admitting such little people often became my own teachers. That boy in the story could easily have been the twelve-year-old Jesus sitting in the temple teaching adults God’s truth.

Sometimes it makes me wonder: might not the world be a more authentic and peaceful place with such clear thinking youngsters at the helm and that we could all have a hot dog with ketchup?

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