I am no expert on German literature, and “The Metamorphosis” is not exactly beach reading, but I listened closely yesterday when a grade 11 student stopped by to talk about a paper he had written on Kafka’s method of narration. This earnest scholar continually stressed that “point of view determines just about everything.”
I thought about his insight this morning during a primary grades assembly. A middle-aged couple spoke to the young boys about a triathlon fundraiser they were planning to benefit Sick Kids Hospital. They mentioned, almost in passing, that they were motivated to do this because their daughter had been diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 2.
Instantly, a hand shot into the air. “What happened to your daughter?”
The mom bit her lip and responded. “She’s no longer with us.”
Other hands shot up. “Where will I put my towel for the triathlon? And will there be candy there?”
I get it. Most of us are a bit self-absorbed, and there is a developmental piece, especially with young boys, that sometimes knocks the wind out of your sails. (Walker Percy used to refer to this as “the great suck of self.”) But to listen to a mother talk about losing her daughter, and then within a heart beat, to hear questions about towels and candy…
The mother handled herself with incredible poise. And the young boys seemed genuinely interested in helping with this great cause. But in the back of my mind, something about Kafka made me think that I was the one who had turned into a bug.