A long time ago on Easter Weekend, a boy and his family gathered together at his family’s house to celebrate the holiday. Aunts, uncles, and cousins, all came from far and wide to barbecue and find joy with one another! Joy was found, bread was broken, but in the midst of this happiness, an ember from the grill found its way to the attic of their home and quickly a fire burst out and spread throughout the roof! Panic and confusion spread as quickly as the smoke and flames, as pets were gathered and people were escorted outside. Together, the once joyous family now somberly watched from the curb as the Fire Department did its best to extinguish the fire and save what they could. Luckily, the house did not burn completely but the boy’s room that he shared with his brother was wrecked both by water and flame.
The boy was grateful no one was hurt and that the home had mostly been saved, but a part of him was filled with sadness. Sadness about such a tragedy occurring on what was meant to be a beautiful day. Sad but not surprised, because deep down inside the Boy had gotten used to bad things happening, so much so that he believed that was his destiny and good things were not meant for him. The fire brought him sadness, but that feeling of hopelessness and unworthiness brought him despair.
He went to school and put a brave face on, telling his friends and teachers about what happened over the weekend. Downplaying the horror and stress of watching his childhood home going up in flames and watching his mother’s anguish, he focused on the bright-side and shared about how exciting it was that his family got to stay in a hotel until the house was restored! But, there were a few who looked beyond the mask he wore and saw the pain in his eyes.
The next day the Boy returned to school to begin a new day. To his surprise, he was approached by a dear friend who extended their arms holding a box, and said “Here, take this. It’s not much but my mom and I wanted to make sure you had what you needed, I’m sorry about what happened!” Inside the box were various items of clothes borrowed from her older brother: socks, shirts, underwear, shorts – Everything the Boy needed after losing his belongings in the fire. The Boy smiled at her warmly, hugged her, and said “Thank you.”
Later on in the day, the Boy was approached by his favorite teacher who asked him to stay a moment after class was dismissed. Uneasy and unsure, the Boy agreed and when the bell rang he stayed behind and walked to the teacher’s desk. The teacher smiled and from beneath his desk, he revealed a small box and urged the Boy to take it. Inside was a pair of black Converse tennis shoes, as the Boy peered into the box and struggled to find words to say, the teacher explained: “My family bought these for me, but they didn’t quite fit and I’ve hardly worn them. I want you to have them. I know what you’re going through is hard but I promise it will be okay.” The Boy, overwhelmed, could only manage to say “Thank you” before walking away.
In the evening, as the Boy sat in the hotel room that had replaced his home, he looked down into the boxes and was filled with happiness and warmth. To some, what may have been seen as hand-me-downs, was proof to the Boy. Proof that he was seen, proof that he was valued, proof that he was loved, and proof that he was worthy. For all these reasons and more, these boxes may have just as well been filled to the brim with gold, and even though the Boy would struggle with those feelings of unworthiness and despair well into adulthood, he would remember those two boxes, those two people, those two moments. He would remember, and he would smile. Promising to always be for others what those two people had been for him.
Recently I have been attending a “Freedom Group” through my church, Church of the Pines. This week we discussed the impact of speaking words of life into our fellow man by what we say to each other and breathing life into one another by how we act towards others. I would encourage all who read this to speak and breathe life into one another. You never know the lifelong effect you may have, the light you may shine into someone else’s darkness.
That boy was me, that friend was Mary Helen Reuter and that teacher was Keith Showen. Though we have gone our separate ways over time, I think of them and the acts of kindness they showed me often. I think of how it shaped me, and how badly I needed it, even if I didn’t realize it at the time and I am forever grateful for them. I thank you both from the bottom of my heart, I will never forget your kindness.