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11.12.2009

Doing The Work

Can I ask you something? he said.
Yes. Of Course.
Are we going to die?
Sometime. Not now.
And we're still going south.
Yes.
So we'll be warm.
Yes.
Okay.
Okay what?
Nothing. Just okay.
Go to sleep.
Okay.
I'm going to blow out the lamp. Is that okay?
Yes. That's okay.
And then later in the darkness: Can I ask you something?
Yes. Of course you can.
What would you do if I died?
If you died I would want to die too.
So you could be with me?
Yes. So I could be with you.
Okay.

~The Road, Cormac McCarthy, page 9
Once or twice each night, my daughter cries out in her crib. Sometimes her mother goes to her, and sometimes I go. We try to share the load. Last night, Lyla began to cry and I went to her and gathered her up and we sat in the rocking chair for twenty minutes. She put her head against my chest and I rocked us gently and her breathing, ragged and fussy at first, leveled out and she fell asleep.
It's The Work, you see, and it's the best work we can do.
The beauty of The Road is its message that the light of humanity rests in the next generation. It's our charge--as parents, teachers, citizens, as people--to bring these young ones into the world well equipped, so they might do the same for their own children.
Today, we bundled up (cool weather finally arrived!) and took a walk around the neighborhood. As we passed the school at the end of the street, I stopped and we looked at it together.
"There are good things happening inside that place," I said to her. "You'll enjoy your days in school, I think, and your mom and I promise to help you whenever we can. We'll celebrate your achievements and we'll work hard on the challenges. We'll get there together, heart of my heart."
She made a few sounds and smiled wide--this one is filled with smiles--and we continued on our way. When I got home, I thought about all the work ahead, and how committed we need to be to the things that matter the most.
Whether it's the writing, the teaching, the grading, the committee work, the miles on the treadmill, the yard, the house cleaning, the book keeping--it's all secondary to The Work. That's the task of passing on the light of humanity to the next generation...

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