The Headlights

It was just two days before Christmas as Harry drove down the familiar highway towards home. 350 miles, just under six hours and he'd be home.

As he approached the intersection with the ranch road he thought, "If I turn here, I'll shave fifty miles off the trip. That'll save an hour and avoid the city traffic. The weather forecast doesn't call for snow until tonight, so I'll be okay." Without any further hesitation he swung the car into the intersection and off onto the cross-country road.

Just a little over four hours and he'd be home with his wife and three sons. He'd been on the road for two weeks and was looking forward to the holiday with them.

He remembered his own childhood. He'd been an only child, raised by his mother after his father had died in World War II. Died, no, his father had been killed by a sniper bullet. He only knew his father through his mother's stories and the photo of a soldier on the dresser in his mother's room.

The familiar anger began to build. Anger at that dirty, cowardly sniper that had left him fatherless and his mother a widow.

Anger that his father had never had the chance to hear his first words, see him off to school, or see him play football for the high school where Harry had been the star quarterback. Anger that his mother had worked so hard to support her son and herself. Anger that his father hadn't been at his wedding, the births of his sons or the birthdays , Christmases and other important times when grandfathers were supposed to be there.

Lynda just didn't understand that part of him. She talked about how we are all God's children, but that was impossible. God was white, just like Harry and Lynda.

The anger spilled out of his heart and filled his whole body with its warmth. How he hated that whole race of Japs that had perpetrated this great hurt on him and all he loved. He remembered with pride how he had refused to share an office with that Jap his company had hired. "Just window-dressing, that's all he was" Harry mused. And now that Jap was the head of the Pacific territory. Harry worked in the Northwest, so he didn't have to deal with the filthy foreigner. Never mind that Osato claimed to be fourth generation American. He never would be an American in Harry's mind.

Harry drove mechanically, mind more on his racist feelings than on the road ahead. He didn't notice the first fluffy snowflakes nor the ones that followed. He didn't really notice the wind that began to blow the flakes sideways until he realized that the world was white and he needed his headlights to find the rapidly disappearing road. "Too far back to the main highway", Harry thought. "Just 25 miles to the next town. I've gotta make it" he told himself.

Suddenly in the gloom of the road ahead there appeared a dark mass. Harry slammed on the brakes and the car began to slide. Harry tried to guide the car, but to no avail. The car slid off the road and into the deep ditch that ran alongside the road. Harry saw, or maybe felt, a flash of light just as he slammed into the steering wheel and windshield. The deer bounded out of the roadway at the sound of the crash.

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"Harry", a voice called him, but whose? The voice was familiar but strange at the same time. Harry opened his eyes, at least he thought he did. A man, a soldier, was sitting in the seat next to him. Harry tried to look around, but found that he couldn't take his eyes from the soldier.

"Dad?" Harry tentatively asked. He recognized the face of the man as being the same face as in the photograph.

"Yes, Harry".

"But how"?

"You'll understand soon enough, just not now, not at this time. Now there's some important things that you and I need to discuss. I love you and your mother and I have seen the things you wanted me to see. I heard your first words. I was there when you went to school the first time. I saw all of your football practices and games. I was proud of your accomplishments."

"I was there when you and Lynda were married. I was there when each of your sons were born. Harry, I know your boys better than you do, and that's why we need to talk."

"Harry, you need to give your complete love to your wife and children. When the glass on a headlight is dirty the light can't show through, bright and clear. That's the way love is. When our soul is dirty with hate, it can't show through to those who need it most. Harry, your soul needs to be cleaned."

 

"What do you mean?" Harry asked, but was sure his father knew as well as he.

"Harry, it's time to let go of your hatred. You're not the only boy who was left fatherless by the war, or for that matter any other time. Illnesses, bad luck even car crashes throughout history have left millions of sons without their fathers."

"The day after I was shot, the man who did it was killed. He and I have talked many times since. His wife was visiting her parents in Tokyo when it was bombed. His son was left in a small town with his parents. After the war, his son was raised by that man's only brother, a crippled war veteran."

"Osato, at your company, his ancestors have been Americans longer than our family. Harry, it's time to let go."

"I'm not sure I know how", Harry feebly argued.

"First, understand that you can't clean those headlights in your soul by yourself. Then understand that God will do it, if you let him. He's your Heavenly Father and the Heavenly Father of everybody else on Earth. His children are Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Buddhists, even atheists. His children are aborigines, Germans, Chinese, Arabs, Jews, every race and color of man. He sent his Son for all of us, not just a privileged few and His love extends to all of mankind."

"When you truly understand that, when you truly begin to feel that, then the headlights of your soul will let His love shine through you to those you love."

"Harry, your sons are starting to see the world through those dirty headlights of yours. Let go of that hatred, embrace God's love and your sons, my grandsons, will see the world as it really is. Give them, yourself and us a chance. Love outshines hate every time."

"It's time to go back now, but remember what I've told you."

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"Harry", a familiar voice said. Slowly Harry opened his eyes.

"Lynda, what are you doing here?"

"A snowplow driver found your car and got you out. You've been unconscious for two days."

"Two days … then this must be Christmas. Where are the boys?"

"A Mister Osato from your company heard about the accident and offered to keep the boys while I stayed here in the hospital with you."

A tear trickled down Harry's face as he felt a warmth, a real feeling of warmth, spill over from his heart to fill his entire being. Such a different warmth than the hatred that he used to feel.

He looked up at his wife. "We really are all God's children aren't we" he said.

About this story

dennis@heartslinked.com