The Old Testament: The Book of Joel: The Best Lessons Need to Be Understood by Kids

In late August of 1988, the Windhausers were at LAX, already through security and about to check into the gate for our flight to Maui. Since Dad traveled quite a bit when I was younger, he racked up all kinds of frequent flyer points, which made taking this particular family vacation financially manageable. Dad had all of our flight coupons (back when you had to actually possess these) but there was a problem: there was no record of us on this particular (or any other) flight to Hawaii.  Sorry.

Dad tended to have a bad temper back then, and even though I couldn’t tell what exactly was being said at the ticket counter, I could tell that it wasn’t good.  I took a few steps back.

Calmly, Dad took the tickets and stepped away, clearly upset. We took seats.  In a controlled voice, Dad explained that they didn’t have our reservations, and since we were all looking at the tickets in his hands, this made no sense. In a minute we would all be pissed but for the moment we were upset.

But Dad told us to relax, that the counter woman was nice enough, and put our names on the waiting list and would do what she could to get us on the flight. This didn’t seem all that promising—clearly there was more Dad could have done. Did he yell at her? Argue? Didn’t pitching a fit seem like the best course of action?

Dad used this as a teachable moment, as my older brother and I would be flying on our own in our adult lives, and so he told us what he learned in all his years of flying. No matter what you do, no matter what the scenario, respect the counter people and be nice to them, for even if they “should” get you on the flight, they don’t “have” to. It wasn’t this woman’s mistake and being nice positioned you better in her mind, certainly better than the person who verbally unload on her.

The Book of Joel offers a lament over the ruin of the country, and as such it offers few details uncovered elsewhere, such as visions of the attack on Jerusalem (2:4-9) and a call for the people to beg God for mercy (2:17). The book also looks to the future, including payback for Israel’s enemies (3:4, 17) and Judah’s glorious rebirth (3:18).

What stands out, however, is the urging of passing on this tale of destruction to kids (1:9-10).

The idea appears to be that if you can reach the kids, they will grow up with a certain understanding of a better way to live with God and also (perhaps) pass this understanding onto their children, thus creating a strengthened sense of morality within the community. Since adults are not targeted, perhaps this book appreciates that men and women are tougher nuts to crack than boys and girls. But it reveals a respect for youth, or at least in their ability and willingness to absorb instruction, especially useful information.

Perhaps this is a great tactic, as the Old Testament closes and so much of the information aimed at the Israelites doesn’t seem to have sunk in.  Although you could argue that young children are too impressionable for this type of information, one would think that the people imparting the ideas do so with their interest—as well as the interest of the community at large—in mind. I would be interested to see where—and to what degree—children were included or excluded from certain pieces of information. For when you’re really young, how much can you really understand?

Dad obviously wanted us to have a smooth time traveling, and perhaps if we ended up in a similar situation sometime in the future, our behavior at the counter might set a good example to those around us. It might also better ensure that we arrived at our destinations as planned.

Turns out, probably in part because of Dad’s behavior, that we were all squeezed on the flight.

About virgowriter

Brad Windhauser has a Master's in English from Rutgers University (Camden campus) and an MFA in creative writing from Queens University of Charlotte. He is an Associate Professor (Teaching/Instruction) in the English Department at Temple University. His short stories have appeared in The Baltimore Review, The Santa Fe Writer's Project Journal, Ray's Road Review, Philadelphia Review of Books, Northern Liberty Review, and Jonathan. His first novel, Regret (a gay-themed thriller set in Philadelphia) was published in 2007. You can read more about (and buy) it here: His second novel, The Intersection, is being published by Black Rose Writing September 2016. He is one of five regular contributors to On his solo blog, he is chronicling his experience as a gay writer reading the Bible for the first time: Follow his work at:
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