I stumbled across a book last month titled The Road, which was written by Cormac McCarthy. In the book, a father and son are left alone to survive in a very dark and barren landscape. As they travel through unknown and sometimes hostile environments, the two rely on each other for comfort and reassurance.
The father repeatedly talks to his son about “carrying the fire”. In the world in which they live, survival is the only hope left for them.
“We’re going to be okay, arent we Papa?
Yes. We are.
And nothing bad is going to happen to us.
That’s right. Because we’re carrying the fire.
Yes. Because we’re carrying the fire.”
It’s a dark and desolate place filled with death and chaos. Along their daily path, they repeatedly encounter others who are also trying to survive, but some of these strangers are also looking to do more than survive; some are looking to capitalize on the misfortunes and mistrust of unsuspecting passersby.
In the book, “the fire” represents what is left of the good and decency of mankind; perhaps the last twinkling ember of humanity. The father navigates a razor-thin line of protecting his son from the evils of a dying world, while also teaching him morality and kindness. Throughout the book, the boy looks to his father for constant reassurance that they are still “carrying the fire” and wants to know if “they are the good guys”.
I do not want to spoil the book, should you ever decide to pick up a copy and read it for yourself (you definitely should) but the story serves as a reminder that we should always “carry the fire” and teach our children to do the same; to be watchful but maintain moral dignity and goodness.
“You wanted to know what the bad guys looked like. Now you know. It may happen again. My job is to take care of you. I was appointed to do that by God. I will kill anyone who touches you. Do you understand?
He sat there cowled in the blanket. After a while he looked up. Are we still the good guys? he said.
Yes. We’re still the good guys.”
While the world that we live in is a much brighter place than the one depicted in this book, we face some of the same challenges. How do we protect our children and loved ones but also allow room for adventure and growth? How do we teach them to be suspicious of strangers without shutting off their ability to trust? Frederick Douglas once said that “it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Children aren’t born strong just as men aren’t born defeated.
We have an awesome responsibility to our children and to the world. We must never allow awareness and curiosity to turn into indifference. We have to inspire and lead by example in every facet of our life. Our children are watching and they will follow our lead. Are we building strong children? Are we setting a good example for them to follow? Lead them, inspire them, and allow them to grow.
“You have to carry the fire.
I don’t know how to.
Yes you do.
Is it real? The fire?
Yes it is.
Where is it? I dont know where it is.
Yes you do. It’s inside you. It was always there. I can see it.”
If we don’t carry the fire, who will? If we don’t teach our children to carry it responsibly, the flame will extinguish. Be good, do good, and teach them how to carry the fire…always.