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Max and his friends worry about the future of the world. They are 9 years old and not immune to the constant barrage of television news about war, the lingering pandemic, the anger in the airwaves.
Bob is the old man on the street, a retired physicist who studies gamma rays in faraway deserts and does the occasional guest lecture at the local university. But most of the time, Bob is home, working in his garden. He has become the de facto first responder to Max and his friends when they crash on their bikes or skateboards, mostly because he lives at the bottom of the hill, which has become their landing site. Bob is the person dads go to when they need to borrow a tool or bend a piece of metal for a remodeling project, because Bob’s hobby is making things in his garage. Young boys gravitate to tinkerers who can modify their bikes, and Bob has become a fixture.
The boys and their parents really love spending time with Bob at nighttime. They stretch out on one of their lawns and stare up at the heavens. Bob points out the steadiness of the universe, explains the rotation of the earth, regular as clockwork, how stars move across the night sky and how they have guided adventurers for centuries.
It is Bob’s calm voice and shaman-like wisdom that becomes a comfort to the boys. After all, he is seven times their age, which seems to the boys like he has been around since the beginning of time. He explains space in a way that feels like it will always be there, and they come away knowing the galaxy has a balance, a way of righting itself. The world’s happenings seem less significant when he points out the guiding light of Venus and the W shape of Cassiopeia with its five bright stars. There’s the North Star and the Big Dipper, the flower moon when summer begins and the harvest moon when school is again underway. There is a rhythm to life and growing up and understanding. And there is an ever-increasing orbit for a young boy as he holds his own world close and expands his understanding of faraway places.
What will the future bring? Confidence that the world will still be there when we grow up. That there will always be people like Bob to calm our fears, and that as we, too, grow by decades, we can become the guiding light for young people looking for wisdom from the ages, from that time long ago when we were full of questions and doubts and anticipation and needed someone to temper our fears and guide our thoughts to a safe place. As we gaze up at the universe, we can appreciate the Bobs in our life who know how to fix things — even anxious minds.
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