The little boy continued to hold back slightly until his father insisted he come in. Finally, he edged into the room. I realized he was afraid of his father. I looked at Claude, who was beginning to look perturbed by his son's behavior.
"You haven't been back very long?" I inquired.
"No, only a few weeks. How did you know?"
Well, it didn't take a genius to see that the little boy hadn't taken to him yet, and that perhaps the fights with his wife were contributing factors to the boy's behavior.
"Could I tell you a little story, my friend?" I asked him.
"I guess so."
"My Da, er, my father was in the Second World War, and he was injured badly, but more than that he was what they called "Shell shocked" back then and came home not the same man he was when he went in. He had bad experiences that left him damaged, so to speak. His nerves were shot, and he had begun drinking in the years he served. His father had been a drinker, as well, so he was familiar with the stuff. I learned all this after coming home from this war. My Ma and I had a long talk about it a few weeks ago.
The result of his nerves being all shot and jangled, he began treating us, his family, badly. It was no excuse, and he was carrying on a "family tradition", since he had been treated the same way. Every weekend, he would go to Dooley's Bar and spend most of his paycheck on booze, then come home and we would suffer the brunt of his anger. My Ma lost several unborn babies because of it. If he had only gotten some kind of help, it would all have turned out differently, and we could have been a loving family."
Claude turned several shades of red, and I knew I was getting to him with my story. I was telling it in such a manner that the little boy could not understand it, but Claude could.
"I know what you are going through, my friend. Let me ask you a question, please?"
He looked at me expectantly, yet fearfully. I know he thought I was going to ask him if he beat his wife.
"Do you know Jesus?"
He looked at me as though I had two heads. What kind of question was that?
"Why are you asking me about religious crap? I don't hold with any of that stuff. Are you one of those Jesus freaks?"
"If you mean, do I believe in Jesus and His power to heal, then I guess you could call me one of them," I replied with a smile.
"Don't you want to feel better inside? Don't you want peace in your heart? Don't you want to be happy and content inside yourself? Don't you want your little boy to run to you, unafraid? Don't you want your wife to cuddle up to you, and look at you with admiration? Jesus can do all that for you, plus much more."
I could see I was getting to him, and he was squirming in his chair.
"I'm going to loan something to you. Please read it, beginning in the Gospel of St. John. I have had it for eleven years, it has taken me through my service in Vietnam, and is my dearest personal item. It is my New Testament, given to me by a wonderful friend who introduced me to Jesus. You are going to find a lot of answers in it. Would you do that for me? I know I'm a perfect stranger to you, but I care about you."
He took the little book from my hand reluctantly, but nevertheless, he took it. I patted him on the shoulder.
"I have to go now, but I'll be back. Please, instead of doing other things, just read it. Its words have great power to help you."
He shook my hand and I left him sitting there at the kitchen table. He opened the Book.
(To be continued)