There’s something about the way his tiny sweaty hand wraps around mine as we walk down the hill. His fingers grasp the outside of my palm, but his hand’s not yet big enough for his thumb to reach all the way around. It’s a pseudo grip, not one I’d trust if he were in any real danger.
He says he’s afraid the bull might charge. I can’t even see the bull from the path we’re walking, but he’s smart enough to know we’re in the bull’s pasture. He’s smart enough to know to keep some distance.
He holds my hand for safety.
If there were any real danger I wouldn’t trust our hands. I’d scoop him up in my arms. I’d have him off the ground, little rubber boots dangling in the air as I moved quickly in a safer direction.
But today there is no real danger. There is only his fear, the fear of a five year old mind that hasn’t been tainted by anything worse than a few domesticated cows running quickly across a pasture in his general direction.
The older we get the more we’re exposed to things we should be afraid of. We’re bigger and braver but the dangers are more apparent with each passing day.
When I was young I was afraid of the dark, and the imaginary gator that lived under my bed. I was afraid my parents would get divorced because many of my friends had divorced parents. I was afraid of ghost stories, and getting lost in large unfamiliar crowds.
Now I’m older and I’m afraid of my friends and family getting hurt or killed. I’m afraid one day I’ll open up a coroner’s report in my email at work and read the names of my parents or sisters or someone else I love. I’m afraid of people who set out to kill, especially those who do so without a clear motive. I’m afraid of war and I’m afraid of poverty. I’m afraid we’ll all disagree on politics so hard for so long that it reaches a boiling point and we destroy each other.
I’m afraid of a lot of big bad grown-up world things.
But in this moment I’m the brave one, and five tiny fingers wrapped around my palm remind me that this moment is the only one I can do anything about.