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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Rules of the Park

I was running in the park near my home several years ago when I heard a father yelling at his son.  The father was across the park and apparently wanted to leave, and leave now.

"Get over here and let's go!" he yelled.

The son began to run around the track to get to his father, but he father yelled, "cut across the fields," meaning the two soccer fields between him and his son.

"But, Dad, the signs say the fields are closed," cried the son.

"Cut across the fields," demanded the father.

"The fields are closed, Dad,"

"I said cut across the fields and I mean now!" yelled the father.

The boy reluctantly cut across the soccer fields which had been closed for reseeding and maintenance.

I could not get this interaction between this father and his son out of my head for the rest of my run. I obviously still haven't.  As I ran around the soccer fields on the track, I counted the signs that had been posted saying "Field closed.  Stay off the grass."  There were 8 of them.  None of them said, " Stay off the grass, unless you are the father in the gray shirt in a hurry to get home, then it is OK."

This man was forcing his son to disobey the rules of the park.  What was he teaching his son?  How had this affected his son?  How would this affect his son in the years ahead?  I am sure none of these questions entered the father's head.  He was in a hurry.  The rules did not matter to him.  The means justified the end.

And we might say that this one child, running across the grass, did not harm the grass.  And this may be true.  But what if every father who visited the park with his children made them run across the newly sown grass.  The grass would never grow.  The soccer fields would be nothing but weeds.  Soon, there would be no more soccer or soccer teams visiting the park.

The same can be said of the lady that roams the park with a small shovel and a bag.  She digs up interesting plants that she sees and loads them in her car.  I assume that she is taking them to her home where she plants them in her plant beds.  What if everyone who came to the park brought their shovel and a bag and dug up all of the plants they were interested in and transplanted them to their home garden?  The park would soon be devoid of plants.

There is a book that I read years ago entitled, "All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" by Robert Fulghum.  In it he tells how Kindergarten taught him how to get along with other people and how he still applies these rules to his life today; simple rules like don't yell, don't hit other people,  respect the property of others, keep off the grass.  But, I guess some people never went to Kindergarten.