“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Frederick Douglass

Usually the library is one of my favorite places to go and the first place I head for is the Used Books area. No set prices, just make a donation of whatever one thinks they’re worth.

So, today I was browsing through, finding several wonderful volumes when I saw a boy of about 13 approach his dad, who was also looking over the shelves. He’d found something he was really interested in, took it to him and read a couple of sentences aloud.

At first I thought I’d heard the man incorrectly. It sounded like “Oh, good. You can read.” But I thought surely not. I must’ve heard wrong.

The boy walked away and I continued to browse.

About 5 minutes later he was back, when I heard his father say: “Go away. You smell.”


The boy’s reply: “I don’t smell”.

The man said it twice more, making no attempt to lower his voice.

Crushing, humiliating, public riducule.

Bullying – plain and simple.

I wanted so badly to do something.


All I could think of was to smile at the boy just before he turned to walk away again.

I don’t think it would’ve gone well had I said something to the man, but I’d briefly considered it. That idea was rejected because it probably would’ve led to a scene.

But it really bothered me and I asked the Lord for help.

About that time a nice looking woman came and spoke to them; the man and boy went out to the foyer, she went over to the self-checkout.

I took a deep breath and walked over to her and asked if she was the boy’s mother. She said yes.

Then I asked her to be gentle with him because his father had just been rude to him in front of me, and I thought he might be feeling hurt.

Her face fell and she immediately said something to the effect of “my husband has issues”.

We talked for no more than a minute.

She seemed like a kind, gentle person. Approachable.

Her husband on the other hand clearly wasn’t approachable even to his son who so desperately wanted his dad to share his interests.

Now, most of the stories about this kind of thing usually feature Wal-Mart shoppers. Not these people. We were in an affluent town and they looked quite prosperous. In fact, he had the look of a professional man. Maybe an attorney. He certainly had the demeanor of some I’ve met in court.

May God bless and protect the woman and her children. Help her children to be strong and not dwarfed by meanness, to know their worth to their Heavenly Father, who loves them dearly.

And bring that man to the end of himself.


Filed under Children, Vicissitudes of Life

8 responses to ““It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Frederick Douglass

  1. Marilyn

    What a sad commentary. You did the very best thing…to bless them in prayer, and I am sure God will provide all this woman and her children need. Let’s also pray that the father will address his “issues” and change his ways!

  2. fran

    you had a very compassionate response to blatent evil. if you do this to one of the least of these children, you do so to me. wow. how powerful. beautiful.

  3. Hi Carla – oh wow… this is so sad… and 13 is such a hard age anyway. How a Father could do this to his own flesh and blood is beyond me…I pray the Holy Spirit takes him to task and gives the Mother courage to stand in the gap for her family. I’m impressed with how you handled it Carla…God bless you!


    I actually expected to see the explanation of the statement “it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men” as quoted by Fredrick Douglass. But I did not see that.

    • The story of the boy and his father was the example of a man trying to break a son’s spirit.

      My hope was that if the man wouldn’t repent of his very bad behavior and accept his responsibility to build a strong child, then at least the mother would.

      If not, the chances of the son growing into a broken man are rather strong.

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