Living Columns & Blogs

French child leaves lasting impact

By Pam Stone

For The Sun News

It’s always the children, isn’t it, that seem to bring greatly needed clarity?

If you didn’t see the footage during the news, you’ve only to google, ‘French father and son,’ to see the video of a child, his fear rising, tucked securely in his father’s arms, respond to a news reporter’s question about how the Parisian attacks affected him. To his father’s surprise, after the child tells of the of the “mean, mean, people,” he adds thoughtfully, “we have to be very careful, because we have to change houses.”

In a response, perfect in its tone and reassurance, his father replies, “Oh, no, don’t worry. We don’t have to move. France is our home.”

“But there’s bad guys, Daddy,”

“Yes, but there’s bad guys everywhere.”

“But they have guns, and they can shoot us because they’re really, really, mean, Daddy.”

Looking over the sea of memorials laid before them, his father continues gently, “It’s OK, they might have guns, but we have flowers.”

Perplexed, his young mind struggling to comprehend this guidance, also searched for words as he faltered, “But flowers don’t do anything. They’re for, they’re for...”

“Of course they do,” continued his father, “Look, look, everyone putting flowers.” And as the eyes of the child swept over the throngs of Parisians paying homage, his father added, “It’s to fight against guns.”

“It’s to protect?”

“Exactly.”

A moment’s hesitation, then, “And the candles too?”

“It’s to remember the people who are gone yesterday.”

The child, no longer questioning, simply states to his father, “The flowers and candles are here to protect us.”

His father nods, whispers, “Yes,” and the relief on his son’s face is palpable. He smiles into his father’s eyes with the pride of complete comprehension for what is before him.

Oh, mercy, just typing their conversation makes my eyes leak. This conversation was so precious, and I don’t mean in a cloying sense, but rather, in its elegance: delicate, honest, spiritual...perfect and intensely private, albeit now having gone ‘viral,’ seen and heard by millions.

Which is a lovely thing, really.

Because we sorely needed it this past week, as the graphic details of the horror experienced by the people of France have left us — all of us — reeling. As someone who prefers to read the news as opposed to watching it, in order to control what visual impressions I digest, I still find myself playing this video over and over...

For a sort of ‘cup of comfort,’ I guess, along with a sprinkling of hope.

We live in an age of the 24 hour news cycle, bombarding us with a new ‘Breaking Story,’ not to mention, fluff, every time we turn around, so it’s not uncommon for us to forget meaningful stories or photographs, as they are replaced by new, ‘up to the minute,’ images. But this child, I think, will stay with me a very long time, indeed. At least I hope so. Because it’s only been 10 weeks since I saw another another child, a Syrian, washed up on a Turkish beach, who also brought stinging clarity to a situation.

And he seems very much forgotten.

Reach PAM STONE at pammstone@gmail.com.

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