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Thursday, June 7, 2007

Rite of Passage

Yesterday my 13 year old son experienced a young man's "rite of passage". There are many defining experiences in the life of an adolescent boy, but as Arthur is my eldest son, I am a novice in this area.

A young raccoon (slightly smaller than the family cat) showed up in front of the big barn in our backyard. It was terribly's right foreleg had been torn off. The animal was in pain, and like most suffering creatures, was exhibiting threatening behavior. Arthur was the first to notice the animal and approached cautiously. Within minutes his siblings were crowding around, creating further distress in the raccoon.

I asked the children to move away from the animal and Arthur assessed its condition. Dad was at work, but a quick call confirmed what we both knew he would do.

ARthur had saved his money for nearly 6 months to purchase a Crosman air rifle. He is immensely proud of this weapon. Many times I have left the house and seen my young soldier patrolling the perimeter of our yard. He has become quite the marskman, but thus far his experience has been limited to shooting inanimate objects and paper targets bearing the visages of an assortment of motley characters.

The animal had begun venturing beyond the barn, continuing to behave in a menacing manner. Now, the young warrior's determination to end the poor creature's suffering was replaced with his concern that it might hurt his little sister, who was peacefully playing in the backyard.

A well-aimed shot and he took the animal down. Pride in his accomplishment, and then sorrow at the realization that he had killed a living thing. It was such a perfect opportunity to talk about a young man's need to responsibly protect his family. To explain to him, that there is no merit in the suffering of animals...they do not possess an immortal soul and do not gain virtue through their sufferings. To reiterate that "mercy killing" can only be engaged in as it regards to the suffering of animals and not people. That to responsibly protect your family is a right and a duty. That it is also a good thing to feel a bit sad at ending that poor animal's life...that is what makes him both human and humane.

My boy is becoming a man. There will be many such "rites of passage"...this one is poignant. I am watching the last vestiges of childhood peeling away and I am so proud of what is being revealed.

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