It was a dark, unstormy night. The adults gathered on the porch of our Oak Island beach home for the week. The kids were up to their devices inside, awaiting word that bedtime was at hand. Except for Liam Hinson, our 13-year-old grandson and the senior kid, who was hanging with the grownups.
“Liam,” I queried, “what good campfire stories did you hear at Camp Thunderbird this summer?”
And he began, confidently, the adults in the palms of his hands, with the moon and gentle waves as backdrop, to narrate the story of Thunder Warrior.
The aging chief of the Appalachian band called his youngest son and said, ”My time has come to step aside–I must choose my successor. One of my three sons must lead our people. You are to climb our mountain and bring me a suitable token of your leadership.”
The youngest was also the most athletic, and he bounded up the mountain, but only to become winded half-way up. To continue, he found that he would have to scale a rock outcropping. Time to return, he mused, but not empty-handed. So, he shot a deer and lugged it home. “Here, father, is my token of leadership—I have killed a deer to feed our family.”
“Thank you, my youngest.” And then the chief called his middle son, to whom he gave the same charge. Cleverer than his athletic brother but not as athletic, he paced himself and carefully scaled the rocks that had intimidated his younger brother. But he slipped and strained his ankle. I must return, he thought, but not empty-handed. He espied a cave, searched therein, and found a bowl of gems. He picked the largest and shiniest jewel and hobbled home, presenting the stone to his father. “Here, father, is my token of leadership—I have found a large and precious gem for us to use in trade.”
“Thank you, my middle son.” And then the chief called the oldest son and bid him to accept the same challenge as his two younger brothers. The one most in years, less athletic but perhaps wiser than the others, began a slow but sure climb, mastering the rocks, and approached the mountain peak at nightfall. He sat to rest, having just refreshed himself with spring water and berries. Sleep overtook him. He awoke the next morning to a sight unheard of. The sun was a prism rising in a panoply of fiery colors, shadows, clouds, and rays. After breakfasting on more spring water and berries, he began his descent, keeping in mind the splendid sunrise, one that had been hidden from his people on the other side of the mountain. He trekked home empty-handed but full-headed.
“Thank you, my first and oldest,” and he assembled the three. “Leadership knows what the people need and helps them find it. We have flourished in this valley for generations. Nature has been good to us. We have plenty to eat, and we have abundant materials for trade. The deer and gem were nice but unneeded. However, a people need to dream; they need to have a vision for the future; and my oldest has brought to them a longing to visit the mountaintop that will never die. You, my oldest, are the next Thunder Warrior. In you, I am pleased.”
From the mouths of youth comes the wisdom of the ages.