The School Bell  
Earl H. Roberts

In just a few hours my young son will walk out the front door, go down the long driveway, and jump on the bus for his first day of school. They call this a part of growing up, but I'm the one that has to grow. I plead for more strength and courage before I let him go.

I know him well. He is anxious for the adventure to begin; he'll be so eager he won't even wave goodbye. He thinks he is ready, and I am proud. He's my boy. He's my son. And this is an important step in growing up, a mission I've been preparing him to run.

His teachers at church have helped him and made my work more pleasant too. All our Family Home Evenings were subtly planned with this big day in view. We knew it was coming; how important it would be for him to accept this challenge with a smile and unwavering faith.

Until now he has been the big cheese at home. Anything he wanted, we tried to provide. With any hint of concern he could come to us for more love and guidance. Yet when his soul did hunger for freedom he could sneak out into the fenced-in Buffalo Flats back yard and shoot those pesky outlaws trying to ambush him at his plastic watering hole. Sometimes, just to protect his rights, he had to shoot hundreds in a single day. But he gave every one of them a sporting chance.
All this protection will suddenly vanish. He was a class of one, and now he'll be only one in a class of forty two. That is a major change. The whole world will shift in under him, an earthquake all the more powerful because nothing inside has moved. School will be very strange even bewildering to him at first. There will be swarms of people tearing to and fro, bells ringing, horns honking, kids screaming, and those big, strange teachers terrifying enough to shock an entire roomful of kids into tearful silence.

From the second he gets on the bus my son will be faced with choices which can forge of him a stronger man, or lead him ever gently into the binding chains of accepting the easier task and the less demanding way. Ever more of those choices that come too soon must be his now, his while I stand aside, unable to watch, almost too numb to pray. Every trail out there today is fraught with dangers and romantic detours.

They call this a part of growing up, but I am the one that must grow. I'm the one who knows too well that these are tough and treacherous times. I'm the one that knows there are guns in school and knives. Even worse, I remember how tough the bullies I faced at his age were, who don't need gun or knife to get their way. I know about the drugs creeping ever younger. And these things are major concerns to me. Yet I am ordered to send him, and must obey.

Our standards at home were like a fence, and now he will walk alone on the other side. It takes faith and maturity to let him out, out on his own where a less caring world will try to turn him to and fro. Not even teachers who care can be watching all the time. These new freedoms will tempt him to try distant clovers and go chasing every rainbow that comes sliding by.

His teachers can't know him as I have known. They will be more demanding that he stand alone, while his peers lack my patience where his has been the slower growth. When called upon to rise before the class, will he stumble in sudden fear as all the eyes in the world turn upon him? Will the words he chooses to speak be twisted by some clown in a charming way until my son stands there disgraced? All that training we have given him: Will it be enough to brace him for that tragedy of being misunderstood, for the sorrow of his first real rejection when offering his glad hand of friendship?

Will he remember in times under stress the lessons we have carefully enhanced? Is there enough pride in who he knows he is? Has he learned to give enough love out to reel back in a real friend or two? Will he take major disaster in his stride? Lord, will he be smiling in joyful triumph when he returns again to my side?

My heart aches to go along on this first day, to take every step with him. It would be so reassuring if I could just pick out the friends he will soon make, or caution him with courage when the first bully takes his turf. But when the others pushed or shoved, I would put forth an intervening hand, I know, in an effort to keep that smile of his a shining glow. I'd do so much to protect him and help him; It would shame him. Of course, I cannot go.

But I have warned him that not all men are saints, nor will all his friends be true. I have told him about those scoundrels who lurk in forbidden paths, and about the righteous champions that come charging through. Good and evil is lurking out there. Now he must learn to make the decisions of which is which, and which one he wishes to do.

More training will not help. Waiting longer will not give him more power. I can do no more right now. I have taught him and prepared him all I can for this coming hour.

Even good parents can do just so much to train and prepare. There comes the day when children must let go the hand that loves them. Now I leave it up to him and the rest of the world to do their share. This is a part of growing up and I must let him go, go out into the world alone to meet his first big challenges without us as his buckler and shield. I can't hold him back, for that would be sin. 

The Lord has put me down here to teach him how to win. 

And dear world, he will win; for me and God both call him son.

The End

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