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Luke’s approach to life: Learn one thing every year

If you end up learning two things, you’re well on your way.

Luke turned 5 and now knows five things.
Luke turned 5 and now knows five things.
Photo by Brian McMillan
  • Palm Coast Observer
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On a recent car ride, Luke said matter-of-factly from the back seat: “When you’re 0, you know zero things. When you’re 1, you know one thing. When you’re 2, you know two things.”

“OK,” I said as I drove down Belle Terre Parkway on a sunny morning. “So that means when you’re 4, you know four things?”

“Yes,” he said.

“And because I’m 43, I know 43 things?”


“What are those 43 things?”

He never answered me, but I revived the conversation on Easter, April 9, when Luke turned 5 years old. 

Here are the four things he said he knew before that day:

1. How to paint;

2. That God loves us;

3. How to meet people;

4. How to get older.

He never explained, but I’m guessing the key to No. 4 is simply waiting around.

The more I think about this odd bit of Luke logic, the more I like it. Maybe each year, as long as we learn one thing, we can call it a successful trip around the sun. It helps to keep expectations manageable. And if you end up learning two things, you’re well on your way.

Of course, that begged the next question.

“Now that you’re 5,” I asked, “what’s the fifth thing?” 

“Now I know more math problems, like 6+9,” he said. He thought for a minute, seemed to realize he hadn’t learned that one yet, and changed his mind: “I mean, 10+10. That’s 20.”

Luke turned to my wife, Hailey, and said, “I’ll give you a hard math problem: 1,000+100+6.”

She replied, “It’s 1,106.”

Luke’s jaw dropped.

It’s been one of his obsessions lately, asking people math problems. When his siblings aren’t responsive, he asks Google instead.

“Hey, Google, what’s 116 plus 116?” he asked one day at lunch time.

That soothing voice replied: “332.”

Luke decided for a real test: “Hey, Google, what’s the square root of 19?”

Google either misunderstood or didn’t know the answer and decided to dodge it. The voice said, “In the NFC Championship Game on ...”

In an exasperated tone, rolling his eyes like his older siblings do, Luke said, “Google, stop!”

We tried to make Luke’s fifth birthday a special one, but he did a good job of that on his own. After tossing a candy wrapper on the floor, he said to his 8-year-old sister, Kennedy: “I don’t have to pick it up because it’s my birthday.” 

Then, in case Kennedy hadn’t understood, he made it extra clear: “Kennedy, you’re my maid.”

Hailey chastised him. “Why are you doing this?” she asked.

He was honest: “I’m trying to get attention!”

As he continued his attention-grabbing birthday-boy routine, Kennedy taught him a lesson of her own.

“You said when you were 4 that you were going to practice, so that when you turned 5, you wouldn’t make any bad choices anymore,” she said.

Luke was surprisingly shaken by her reminder. Apparently the two of them had actually discussed this goal. I was happy that Kennedy was trying to help him make good choices and that Luke’s heart was pointed toward goodness.

But even Kennedy didn’t realize that she was asking the impossible: to always make good choices.

Luke, seeming to suddenly comprehend the limits of not only his own soul but of all mankind, cried out, “I just can’t!”

The next morning, on the way to school, I asked Luke about his pact with Kennedy to never make any bad choices, after the age of 5. I reassured him: “All we can do is try. And then, try again.”

That’s my 44th thing.


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