The other day I saw, via Facebook, a picture of me from 40 years ago. It was the fourth grade class picture of Room 13 at the Central Elementary School in Stoughton, Massachusetts. As I looked over the miniature portraits of my 23 classmates and our teacher, Ms. Berman, it was amazing to me how many names and memories flooded my mind – playing in the school yard during recess, getting a ‘pen’ for penmanship, staging a production of “The Point!”, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance each morning, marveling at our neighboring class’s Miss Walsh’s record setting nails, and preparing for the Bicentennial.
As I read the comments attached to the picture and clicked through a number of links, I was saddened to discover that two of those nine-year olds did not survive to their fiftieth birthday. Some have remained in Stoughton, but most have not – moving within and beyond Massachusetts. Most went on to college and a variety of careers. Many have been married. Some, like my Facebook page, have posted pictures of children and some even had pictures of grandchildren. Much has happened to all those little kids from the autumn of ‘75 – successes and losses with many good days and many bad days.
Looking back and reminiscing about life during the Ford administration has made me wonder about another group of pictures I have in my house and in my mind – the cherubic faces in the class pictures of my kids. The kids in those portraits live in a much different world than my fourth grade classmates did. My children come from an environment of cable television, smart phones and the internet; that is a far cry from three networks (and no remote), a single corded telephone in the kitchen and encyclopedias. My fourth-graders live in the shadow of 9/11 and Columbine; the worst we had to fear was the nebulous Soviet Union. I’m not sure which childhood I would prefer.
The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, and He delights in his way. Psalm 37:23 (NKJV)
Whether we are in the suburbs in the 1970s or the city in the 2010s, the paths of our lives are arranged by God: this is not to say that all the bad times were given by the Almighty (after all, there is that pesky dynamic known as the consequence of sinful behavior) but rather that the Lord has a delightful plan for each and every one of us, and the Lord is delighted when we remain in it. As I look at that tiny face in the corner of that yellowed picture, I think about all the things I wish I could have told him. I’d tell him that God’s got a plan for him. I’d say that there will be relationships that will not be worth the emotional investment and others that will be. I’d tell my nine year old self to save the saxophone, avoid getting a perm at all costs and play a sport in High School.
Much as one may want to, you cannot relive your childhood, not even vicariously through your own children. All you can do is trust that God has a plan in all the details, and that somehow it will all work out…like the day you saw an old photograph and thought about ‘the good old days’ at the Jones School.