BUILDING A MODEL
By Wes Stephenson
My father retired from the airline industry where, in the early 1950’s, he started out as an aircraft mechanic for the iconic three-tailed TWA Lockheed Constellations. A few years ago, while browsing through a hobby store, I came across a model of that classic aircraft complete with TWA markings. With Father’s Day approaching, I thought this would be the perfect gift for my dad. However, knowing how busy he was, I also thought I should take the time to assemble the model so that I could present him with a complete and perfect replica of the “Connie” (as this aircraft was affectionately called). I purchased the model and looked forward to both the project and to the giving of the gift.
Unfortunately, when I sat down one evening at my kitchen table to begin assembly, I found the task to be surprisingly frustrating. I had brought out all the right tools; broad and fine-tipped brushes, tweezers, a magnifying glass, and a small assortment of razor knives. Despite my best efforts, the glue got onto the wrong parts, (then wouldn’t clean off); the paint lines were erratic, and the decals tore as I applied them. To make matters worse, throughout the entire maddening process my 5-year-old son, Mitch, kept pestering me with non-stop questions:
“What are you doing, Daddy?”
“I’m building a plane for Grandpa.” I responded without looking away from my task.
“Can I help?”
“No; this if very difficult and I don’t want you touching anything on the table.”
In typical five-year-old fashion, the questions kept coming to interfere with my concentration.
“Are those knives sharp” he asked.
“Yes” I responded curtly as I studied the problematic fit of a wing.
“Are they the sharpest knives in the world?”
I took in a deep breath, “Yes; they are very, very sharp. Don’t touch them.”
“Daddy, do you know what’s the sharpest thing in the whole world?”
Finally, red in the face and exasperated by the uncooperative model and by the persistent interruptions, I had had enough. I turned to face my son and I drew in the breath to tell him, in no uncertain terms, to quit bothering me and to go away. But as the words came to the tip of my tongue, my son answered his own question.
“Words are the sharpest things in the whole world.”
I froze. Had I heard him right? Did he really say what I thought he said? He continued;
“Words are also the softest things in the world; it depends on which words you use.”
My mouth hung open; that same mouth that was about to release harsh tones to my precious son. I knew that, even as smart as he was, my young son could not have thought up that saying by himself, so I asked him;
“Where did you hear that?”
“From my Sunday School teacher,” he responded.
I sat down the magnifying glass, still in my hand, and I picked up my sweet boy. I held him on my lap as we pieced together Grandpa’s present, amazed at the gift of enlightenment my dear son had given me for Father’s Day.
A very imperfect Lockheed Constellation now sits on a shelf in my parent’s den. Each time I see it I am reminded of that evening, many years ago, and I wonder if teachers of children really know the deep effects of their service. More often than they realize, they are not just teaching the little ones, but entire families. Certainly, on that night, at a disheveled kitchen table, my son’s teacher helped create a better father. I am forever in that teacher’s debt.
Tags: anger; patience, language, self control, primary