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Feared for His Children

A mural artist named J. H. Zorthian read about a tiny boy who had been killed in traffic. His stomach churned as he thought of that ever happening to one of his three children. His worry became an inescapable anxiety. The more he imagined such a tragedy, the more fearful he became. His effectiveness as an artist was put on hold once he started running scared. At last he surrendered to his obsession. Canceling his negotiations to purchase a large house in busy Pasedena, California, he began to seek a place where his children would be safe. His pursuit became so intense that he set aside all his work while scheming and planning every possible means to protect his children from harm. He tried to imagine the presence of danger in everything. The location of the residence was critical. It must be sizable and remote, so he bought twelve acres, perched on a mountain at the end of a long, winding, narrow road. At each turn along the road he posted signs, “Children at Play.”

Before starting construction on the house itself, Zorthian personally built and fenced a play yard for his three children. He built it in such a way that it was impossible for a car to get within fifty feet of it. Next…the house. With meticulous care he blended beauty and safety into the place. He put into it various shades of the designs he had concentrated in the murals he had hanging in forty-two public buildings in eastern cities. Only this time his objective was more than colorful art…most of all, it had to be safe and secure. He made sure of that.

Finally, the garage was to be built. Only one automobile ever drove into that garage—Zorthian’s. He stood back and surveyed every possibility of danger to his children. He could think of only one remaining hazard. He had to back out of the garage. He might, in some hurried moment, back over one of the children. He immediately made plans for a protected turnaround. The contractor returned and set the forms for that additional area, but before the cement could be poured, a downpour stopped the project. It was the first rainfall in many weeks of a long West Coast drought. It if had not rained that week, the concrete turn-around would have been completed and been in use by Sunday. That was February 9, 1947…the day his eighteen-month old son, Tiran, squirmed away from his sister’s grasp and ran behind the car as Zorthian drove it from the garage. The child was killed instantly.

Swindoll, The Quest For Character, Multnomah, pp. 81-2