I saw a co-worker and his wife in a social setting. The man turned to his wife, “Tell Jeff the story you told me.”
Her face lit up as if she remembered something important. She began a story from the high school cafeteria where my kids went.
She told me about a young man who doesn’t “fit in”. She said the student being picked on wasn’t popular, struggles in school, and in all reality, is not very socially skilled. By all accounts, he’s a little odd. Add it up, and he’s an easy target.
The young man’s primary defense mechanism is to blend in like a social chameleon, then avoid others. That’s impossible during school days when he would unwilling become the center of attention. He’d shrink alone, virtually defenseless, and silently absorb any words, jokes or laughter directed his way. Continue reading The Other Table
Maybe it was congenital. Maybe brain damage. Either way, he was effected.
His leg drug faintly when walking. At the repeat of each pair of steps, he swung his hip to the left so he could pivot his right leg up for the next step. It would have been slow and tedious for others, but he’d had a lot of practice, probably a lifetime, so he was fluid when he walked, even if it wasn’t smooth.
He was short and stocky, wearing simple blue jeans with his plaid blue shirt neatly tucked in. His glasses were thick, and although his eyes seemed to move just a hint slower, they were overshadowed by the peacefulness of his face.
We all walked into the church auditorium, and as circumstance would have it, we ended up sitting diagonally behind the stranger in church. Continue reading Singing in the Rubble
He hobbled slowly to a stone wall to lean on it, caught his breath to gather strength. A few meters away, he half fell, half sat in a shady spot on the dusty ground.
His threadbare clothes were so tattered and thin that most people wouldn’t even use them for rags.
He carefully placed a beat-up cup within reach right in front of him. He’d learned that given half a chance, other beggars more agile than he would snatch his few coins and run. He was barely able to move across the street now, much less give chase. He tried in vain not to close his eyes.
There was just something about closing his eyes though that eased his pain. Every joint in his body seemed to ache, right down to his bone marrow. He wasn’t sure why, but sometimes sharp pains in his side doubled him over, causing him to curl up in a tight ball until the pain subsided. Continue reading Just For Crumbs
I was making my way to a book store downtown in my own little world, absorbed in my own thoughts, with no desire to interact with anyone other than get through and get gone.
A man came out of God-Tel, a local homeless mission, up the sidewalk from me. He started walking towards me and I dutifully moved to the right so we would cross in the socially acceptable manner.
He walked with no sense of purpose, and his steps had no urgency. I glanced at him to give the slight nod of the head that men give each other that says, “I see you. I recognize you and respect your presence, but I have no intention of talking to you”.
Instead of making the acceptable brief, expressionless eye contact and responding in kind with the same nod back, he looked away toward the street.
Not giving eye contact raised a red alert alarm, so I steadied my gaze on him as he ambled toward me. Continue reading Why Me?
I once had a chicken with a small injury on its tail. I caught it, doctored it, then made a terrible mistake. I released it back into the large coop with the 15 or so other birds.
The next day the chicken was in a corner of the pen, alive, but barely. Its tail feathers and many on its back were gone and the small injury was now a gaping wound.
I stared in disbelief as one by one the other chickens went by and pecked the wounded bird. As if its spirit had been broken in 24 hours, it sat facing the corner of the pen cowering down in a defensive posture.
It didn’t even move when pecked, except when it winced in pain when another chicken hit the wound directly.
I did what I should have done the day before and separated it in a small protected pen, but it was to late, the chicken died shortly afterwards. Continue reading There Go I
He walked in front of me. He was on a mission. So was I.
Shopping in a grocery store is easy. Little list. Grab it. Go.
He was quick too, except his handful of items needed a shopping cart.
Two 5-gallon containers of peanut oil, five boxes of fish seasoning, eggs and four bags of cornmeal.
His clean overalls said he had already cleaned a ton of catfish from either trot lines or baited holes. And now he was about to have a party, a fish fry, and he was fidgeting to get the fryer started.
There was still one thing in his basket that didn’t make any sense to me. He handed the little deli bag to the cashier who asked if he had two, or three, fried chicken tenders. Continue reading Help One
It’s our large family tradition. Easter egg hunts for the children AND adults.
The kids go first, eggs with candy, bubbles, little toys, and more candy.
Then the adults hunt. We had 13 adults hunt this year because 5 of our adult gang couldn’t make it. Janet and I sat back and enjoyed watching the 13 go after it.
It’s basically the same each year, but with new twists thrown in. The twist this year was games made up of random teams.
The first-place team in points from the Egg Toss, Egg Spoon Race and Rabbit Race (tow sack races) got a first-place head start hunting eggs, followed by the second-place team, then the lowly third-place team. Continue reading Everybody Wins
He fell face down in the dirt. The field was plowed a week before and the small clods crumbled between his fingers with dry chaff and stems of the previous crop.
He couldn’t get up. This Valley of Elah, of sorts, was too much, too hard. The mountain was too high, the valley too low.
His energy was drained, resistance exhausted, and he was so weary of well doing.
Dirt on his forehead began to clear from the sweat of his brow while dirt below his eyes washed clean from tears. Continue reading Stand Up, Warrior!
I like broken people, the ones whose frames are scratched, dented and their corners don’t match up well. I like people who have discolored pictures, broken glass, torn canvases. Somehow troubles, pain, turmoil, and suffering tends to create genuineness.
There’s something about pain and trouble that acts like a cleansing fire burning out the impurities of life. Those who emerge from hard times are tempered, refined, and often, real. It’s not that anyone wants a broken frame or cracked glass, but life breaks and shatters us anyway. Continue reading Broken Picture Frames