The Records of Our Better Nature
"Why dads Their Boys to Skip Rocks"
By Rev. Paul V. Scholl
It was an early morning in November of 1965 on an inlet in the northeastern Chesapeake Bay.
A father, in his mid-thirties, was walking with his son of six. Every morning for the last year and a half the two had gotten up just after sunrise to take this walk together, just to play and be in the heart of nature living just outside their front door.
Something was changing the last few weeks though, as Dad had begun to hear something different in the questions coming from his son. They were more inquisitive and often related to his dreams from the nights before. Today was going to prove to be an important lesson for both.
In just a few minutes they found themselves coming to the end of their creek and almost to the mouth of the river. The young boy bent over and picked up a rock, looked at it for a moment, then threw it into the creek bed. They walked a little farther, reaching the river. Dad picked up a rock, looked at it for a few moments saying “Good rock”, then skipped it a dozen times across the water. The young boy just giggled. They stood there a little while longer until the boy asked “Dad, how does the water know where to go?” Smiling, pondering his reply for only seconds, he said “Son, each drop of water follows the drop that went before it. When the world began the very first drop of water knew where it was going. Since then, every other drop knew it was best to follow first, then lead the drops that would come behind it. That’s what gives us creeks and rivers that become oceans.”
“Really? Then dad, tell me how do the trees know how to grow.” The boy’s father could see he was going challenge him with a bigger picture, one question at a time. “Well son, in each tree and plant on the earth are seeds or seedlings that remember what it was like to be part of the tree or plant they came from. When they fall away as a new seed with a chance to grow on their own they use what they remember. Then they grow up fast and strong knowing that they have to teach the same things to their seedlings. Next thing you know you have either a forest or a garden.”
As the young boy leaned over and picked up another rock, it all seemed to make sense. Then he asked “Dad, tell me the truth. Where does the wind come from?” He then threw the rock a little farther out into the river, then turned for his answer. “I see the winds as being the voice of God. You never really see it coming, you never really know where it is going, but you always know at some point in the day that it will there. When it does it says hello to everything. It says hello to the river, the trees, to the rocks on the shore. It gives everything a reason to be alive.”
The boy’s father thought that would probably be it for the questions for the day, but the boy’s interest was only just starting to build. “O.K. Dad, so why doesn’t the river stop when it hits a rock, or the wind stop when it hits the mountains?” Dad reflected for a moment, picked up another rock, saying “Good rock”, then skipped it a dozen times across the water. “Son, I really love answering your questions.” After a short pause he said “Even though they are the strongest, they rocks and the mountains know it is important for them to know when to let the rivers run by, and to let the wind blow around or over them. They know they are there to make it safe for the water to become creeks that will lead to oceans and the ground safe for the trees seedlings to grow. They know they are there to help the others so they get a chance to feel the winds blow everyday.”
The young boy picked up another rock, and held it. He asked “How do they know that, Dad?”
With soft eyes, the boy’s father looked in admiration at him. What a challenging gift he had been his entire life. And now the truths were being laid. “Well young man, inside every rock lies the truth of everything it has ever experienced. It remembers every drop of water that has passed by, every breeze that has blown, every tree that gave it shade. It remembers what mountain it rolled down from and what boys have picked it up and thrown it into the water. Each rock remembers everything.” Surprised, the boy made a funny face at his father and asked “Why do we throw them into the water then? Do they like it?” “Oh yes! Said his father, “They love it!” He then leaned down, picked up another rock, and together they threw their rocks into the water just a few feet apart.
“Son, every time we skip a rock across the water each drop kisses the rock as it goes by, and the rock kisses back. Together they are remembering all the beautiful things they have shared in creating their world around them. And the best thing, the rock gets to feel the wind, kind of like when you feel the wind in your hair. Then, when the rock gets to the bottom of the river it gets to tell all the other drops of water all the stories it knows about all the other drops that have passed by too.” Thinking of what to add to this answer to provide a more lasting impression the father continued, “And the important thing to learn as you grow up is how to throw rocks so they kiss the water more. You’ll learn that we don’t throw rocks for us, we throw them for the joy of remembering it brings to the rocks.”
A few moments passed and it was almost time to turn around and head home. If they didn’t leave soon the boy would be late for school. But he had one more question. “Dad, why do people forget to have fun throwing rocks?” And in the memory of what he had learned some thirty years before, he replied “Sometimes the rocks remind people where they came from. Throwing them would show them just where it is they are supposed to be going. A lot of people just don’t want to know. They forget that there is real treasure in knowing each step you’ve taken, everything you’ve experienced in life, everything you’ve shared with others. When there’s no treasuring the things you’ve experienced, good or not so good, there’s always trouble trying to figure things out. If you don’t look where you’ve come from how will you ever know where you’re going? Or worse, what will you do when you get there?”
With that, the father bent down and picked up two flat rocks, handing one to his son. The young boy smiled, then they both turned to the river, and together they skipped rocks.
~ Rev. Paul V. Scholl