The Cap – Reconciliation, Friendship, Forgiveness
Isaiah 62:4-5 “. . . you shall be called . . . Beulah; for the Lord delights in you. . .”
II Corinthians 5:18 “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
The cap was not worth much; it was a “10-cent store special” for about fifty cents or so, at most.
It was the kind that looked like a pilot’s cap, fitting tight on your head with straps that hooked under your chin.
It had once had goggles, but they had been long since lost or simply torn up in the rough and tumble of everyday play. In those days, you were really the stuff if you had the “pilot’s cap.”
I still have a picture of my older brother wearing his. Mine, as far as I know, was never photographed. We did indeed think of it as special.
It was our everyday wear when we were flying through the air in fighter planes and winning World War II for the good old U.S.A.
In our minds we could hear the bombs exploding, the bullets whizzing past, the loud engine roar of our plane, and the ominous sound of approaching enemy planes. In our caps, we were sure to win!
The cap with all of the symbolism and imagination in our play became something every kid in the neighborhood wanted. The cap – to a little 9-year old – was a real treasure. I was nine and I had a cap!
It’s been over sixty years and it happened almost 500 miles from where I have lived for the last 50 years.
The details have faded or, in some cases, I’m sure, are exaggerated. But what has remained in my mind and life has become “a precious memory,” one that does “linger” and from time to time “floods my soul.”
It may, in fact, be more about Daddy than about me and my friend from down the street.
The context of the episode has long since been forgotten, but there was a fight, nothing really violent, but one of those kid-tumbling and tossing kind of things that are a part of any neighborhood.
Bubba Felts (his name was Homer, but for all of us growing up there on the hill he was then and still is Bubba) lived down the street (it was a dirt road, but since it was inside the city-limits we called it a street – 4th Avenue, East), in sight of our house.
The cap was a popular thing and most of the kids had them; why Bubba didn’t, I’ve forgotten.
He was going to take mine. So we scuffled, and surprisingly, I won. I was pretty proud. I had fought. I had won. I still had my cap. It was mine. It was the right thing to do.
I had no regrets, no qualms, no guilt feelings. We were neighbors and had lived in sight of each other as long as either of us could remember. I hoped we could still be friends; but . . . it was my cap.
No qualms! That is, until night came. Sometimes after supper, my pride at “winning” and still having the prize cap turned into a sad feeling.
My friend wanted a cap and did not have one. It was not right for him to try to take mine, but I had kept it by “force,” at least all the force a nine year old could muster.
This is where Daddy enters the picture. How the conversation got started, I don’t remember.
I guess a Daddy has built in a kind of radar for “reading” the kids in the family. He surely did read my feelings and my thoughts.
I told him about the fight (at least, the scuffle) over the cap. “How do you feel about it?” “What do you want to do?” The bottom line was that I wanted Bubba to have the cap.
I remember so well walking in the dark holding Daddy’s hand as we made our way the short distance down the street to Bubba’s house. I gave Bubba the cap. I don’t remember what I said to him. I did make it clear he could have the cap!
Daddy let us do our talking in private. He waited in the shadows on the porch, not wanting to embarrass or intimidate or squelch whatever little boys need to say to each other. We were silent as we walked back home in the dark; I still held Daddy’s strong hand.
We never talked about it, but I learned a great many things that night, walking in silence. I learned that a Daddy can sense the frustrations of little boys. Perhaps all Dads can do this; maybe that is a part of being a daddy!
I learned how safe you feel in the dark if you’re holding your Daddy’s hand. I learned how well you sleep after doing what you feel is right.
Giving the cap to Bubba was almost like a kind of reconciliation. The cap was not an attempt to “buy” friendship, but it was a gift from one friend to another to quell hurt feelings and to change sadness into happiness.
We moved away from 4th Avenue later, but Bubba and I have remained good friends down through the years. Years passed and we all grew up. I became a college professor; Bubba became an insurance salesman, a good business man.
He also became a minister of music and worked in his church through the years and sang with a Gospel quartet, an outstanding young man in his community.
He sang at my Daddy’s funeral and later Mama’s. He sang his favorite and theirs – Beulah Land. The refrain says,
“Beulah Land, I’m longing for you, and someday on thee I’ll stand.
There my home shall be eternal.
Beulah Land . . . sweet Beulah Land.”
Little did we know way back then, as we talked in the dark about the cap, that we were already walking on Beulah Land. When you do what’s right, you’re there. You are indeed there.
The cap went like all other mementos of youth. It was completely worn out and then discarded.
I said it at the beginning – it had no real value, but it came to symbolize for us reconciliation, forgiveness, friendship.
And it became a reminder, too, of that night walking in the dark, feeling so safe, holding Daddy’s hand.
Walking in silence knowing that he understood better than I did what was going on in the life of this little kid. Many times, remembering that night, I’ve said (almost out loud), “Thank you, Daddy. Thank you!”
The cap – worth, maybe fifty cents, at most; but my experience of friendship with Bubba that has lasted a lifetime – priceless! Quality time with Daddy on that night so long ago – exceedingly priceless! Beulah Land for sure.
What a wonderful story. Who would guess a little boy’s cap could become a symbol of Reconciliation and the beginning of a lifelong friendship. – Bob, Making Christ Known
About the Author
G. Byrns Coleman is Professor of Religion and Chair of Department of Religion & Philosophy, Wingate University, Wingate, NC . He is also a member of Wingate Baptist Church .
October 18, 2009 – (Revised from January 2007)