The Lord is my son’s Shepherd
I often worried about my son when he was a little boy of five. He was a silent one (tentatively diagnosed as autistic) and barely spoke to anyone. Also, he was bigger than his class-fellows but too gentle to fight. He ended up bullied badly, and often came home beaten black and dangerously hurt.
We lived in constant fear of his safety at school. The teachers assured us they would keep watch. But they could do little inside the toilet blocks where the bullying was most. My son bore his enormous pain rather well for a five-year old. And he never missed school out of fear. But he remained aloof and withdrawn.
The bullying only got worse. Once someone had rammed a compass needle through his eyelid, barely missing the eye. Another time, two boys had squeezed his little finger in a door frame, breaking a phalanx. I decided to take him out of that school. But then the little voice inside stopped me. ‘How can you be sure other schools would be any better? And how will your boy learn to face the world without you butting in?’ I heeded the voice and prayed for a solution.
One day there was this whisper in my heart. A little prayer (I’m Hindu, but this is from the Bible, which I have flipped through in hotel rooms). I wrote it down and gave it to my son to commit it to heart. He prayed daily before going to school and before going to bed. He’d say ‘God, thank you for everything. Thank you for giving me wisdom, strength and good manners. Thank you for saving me from harm. The Lord is my shepherd.’
It wasn’t just him that prayed. I prayed too. Every morning when his school bus went out of my sight, and every afternoon on learning he had returned home safe.
In some months, he was ready for primary school, which was in another building. He had grown taller and now towered over his new classmates. His size and piercing gaze and cold silence brought awe and fear. No one got rough with him, and soon he had even made a few friends who would visit us at home.
I wasn’t making enough money back then. I could see wishes dancing in his limpid eyes whenever we passed a mall, or when his friends came by showing off their new toys and swanky clothes. It wrung my heart that I could not buy my son the things he craved in silence. But I somehow scrounged and squeezed and scraped enough to give him a nice birthday party every year.
Then came the day I failed him. He was turning nine. I didn’t have enough money to give him a birthday party. It must have hurt him, but he did not show it. Instead, he hugged me and wiped my tears and said he would pray to God for me, like I had prayed for him before.
That night, I heard him mumble a new sentence at the end of his daily prayer. He said, ‘God, please give Daddy new business and lots of money.’
All those who know me can testify that my life changed soon. We came into good times, saw familial happiness and an abundance of the good things of life, which we accepted with grace. And although we did not waste much, I always gave my son twice whatever he asked for. Because I firmly believe that as much as my hard toil, it was my son’s innocent and pure wish that changed my life.
Coming out of rough times made our family bonds a lot stronger. I now understood that my family is God’s biggest gift to me, a refuge that has seen me weather many storms and emerge scarred but alive each time.
Now, many years later, my son is a grown up young man of twenty-four, earning his livelihood in another city. Pursuing his dream of becoming a digital colourist for movies. He is confident, handsome and still a tad too straight and honest for this wicked world. But it is this rare quality that lands him offers that others kill for. His clients trust him. He slogs hard and works late nights. He makes less money of his own than the money we put into his bank account each month. But he is humble and careful with his money. He has chosen to be his own man, seek his own fortune, chase his own dream.
And I am proud of that. Just as my father must have been when I was in my twenties, resolved to make it on my own instead of wage employment. I have faint recollections of waking up in the middle of night to find my father rustling my hair. And going away just when I stirred.
A few days ago, I remembered that little magical sentence my son had added into his prayers. My heart whispered again. Now, my daily prayers have an extra sentence. ‘God, please give my son honourable and well-paying work and success in all his well-meaning undertakings. The Lord is my son’s shepherd.’