Friend or Foe?

A young boy comes to his father after a strenuous afternoon of waving his sword about at flies and other dangerous creatures threatening him and their family.  The father smiles as he sees the natural protective instinct manifest in what will be one day be a strong young man whose job will be to protect the family and he invites his boy to come sit over and chat with him.

The father tells the enthusiastic child, “You did well to protect your mother and your sisters from those pests while I was out scouting in the field.”  He tussles the already messy hair of the now beaming child and cannot help but smile with filial pride.

A moment later, his son asks the father, “Dad, who are our enemies in this fight?  I know we go to fight the darkness, but those people out there, they look a lot like us, don’t they?”

It was the sort of question so honest that only a child would ask, and as the grand crusade moved against the forces of darkness, it was invariably true that they would face people who looked very much like them, and indeed, who they once knew.  The darkness brought its own sort of madness, and some were lost to it for a season, and others still permanently.  Pausing for a second that seemed to last an eternity to the little boy, the father considered carefully before offering this answer.

“They are a lot like us,” he began, before adding, “And we could easily become like them.”

Seeing a lack of comprehension on the child’s face, the scout continued, “Every man fights a war against himself, to listen to his better angels and embrace a higher calling.  Temptation, the higher darkness that drives this all is not out there,” he said waving his hand across the broad horizon but withdrawing his hand to point at his chest and then squarely at his son’s heart, then commenting “But also just as much in here.”

The boy seemed fascinated by this idea, and a little bit scared, as he asked, “How do I know how to fight that?”

“It’s a good question” the older man admitted, “And one with which we must always struggle, because while some people are merely obstacles, lost to their own madness, others are our enemies, and fewer still are our friends.”

The boy clung close to his father in a moment of indecision before whispering, “Can we trust everyone here?”  The Crusade was growing and brought new members in all the time.  Many looked and acted a certain way, but there were a few who did not, and they fought just as bravely for their own redemption.

Rapping his knuckled, the older man told the boy, “Let me tell you how to judge who is true.  And let this serve you for all your days.”

As the lad paid rapt attention, the father began to describe how he saw people.

“First, you should always protect your family and your kin.  They are your loved ones.  Your blood.  And you owe them your honor and your sword.  Do not let anyone separate you from them.”

“Second, you seek out your brothers in spirit.  Those who profess to the search for truth, who honor your faith, and who find the light in this world.  They may not look like you or sound like you at first, but when we truly listen, we learn the measure of a man, and can find new friends in the least expected of places.”

“Thirdly, we must trust those who fly our banner.  If we do not trust one another, our struggle will surely be doomed before it starts, yet this alone is not enough, so save your heart for those with whom you share bonds of kinship and spirit, and you will find through constant effort that new connections will emerge in defense of faith and family.”

The young man considered these words for a moment, and then said, “Family, faith, and fidelity – Just like that shield you had at the old house!”

The scout laughed with just a hint of mourning at what they had to leave behind as this fight came to them, but lifted his boy on his knee and bellowed, “Just so.  We fight for our brothers by blood, our pilgrims in spirit, and because we pledged loyalty to one another until this madness passes.”

“But then what comes next,” the boy asked, and before he could continue, his father put a finger to his lips and said, “Son, you have to win the first battle before you fight the next, and we have plenty enough to do in finding a new home and peace that we should just focus on that for now.”

The boy looked out at the horizon contemplatively before eventually nodding and affirming, “Okay, I better get back to swatting those flies.  They didn’t learn their lesson the first time.”

Before his father could comment further, the boy had run off and the veteran couldn’t help but laugh with delight at his boy’s commitment to his duty.  His son would make a fine man someday, he thought, if only we could find a world where he could honor these timeless vows.