Last week Zachary missed his first school days of the year. Coughing, hacking, dizziness, fever; he tolerated it all quite well, for a 10-year old.
As usually happens when he is home without his siblings, Zach wanted to watch a movie with me. He’s like that; “Just the two of us,” he says. We settled in to watch a movie I had already seen and approved for his viewing. My only real concern was the 5 or so cuss words that I knew came up during the flick; however, I was sure Z had already heard them all. Besides, this would give us a chance to talk about that sort of language.
As the movie went on, the 5 or so cuss words made their appearance. I could see, out of the corner of my right eye, Zach moving oddly each time a word came along. I looked over, and saw him visibly flinch, his hands moving spastically towards his ears each time someone said anything objectionable. Every time.
He didn’t say much, but I could tell this sort of language was disturbing; indeed, it seemed to border on painful. Zach doesn’t say much, but he tends to be transparent about what he feels. As we talked about it later, he admitted that he had heard all those words before at school. He attends an international Christian school here in Ecuador. I assumed that with the many Christian parents, the colorful language would be reduced some. As well, more than half the children come from Ecuadorian families, so I figured the non-English background would limit his exposure as well. Even so, I knew he’d hear some; sure enough, he’s heard it all and more.
What struck me was how sensitive he was to it. His reaction was immediate, visceral, and agonizing. I thought we were programmed to become immune, to harden ourselves through our exposure. Isn’t that how it works? We get used to the cussing and it stops bothering us. We see people act like jerks enough, and we move on. Zach is, as Stacy and I say it, a sensitive soul.
This summer our family will return to the US for what The Company calls stateside assignment (aka furlough). Zach and his siblings will attend public school. No chapel services, no chaplain staff, no Bible class, no prayers before tests. Christian parents will be a minority, and native-born English-cussers will abound. Poor kid is gonna have seizures.
What I can’t decide is how I feel about it. On one hand, I wish it were not so painful for him. I wish he could see that this is just how the world works, sadly, and that he can toughen up, can handle it better. At the same time, I hope he stays sensitive, that he can continue to see the difference between right and wrong, good and bad. I hope he never simply accepts the wrong things in this world as being “how the world works.”
And me? How can I regain that sensitivity?