A group of parents and kids were sitting around five or six tables strung together at a seafood restaurant. They’d been at a sports tournament and the kids had on various versions of their team paraphernalia.
Most of the adults sat at one end of the long chain of tables. The kids instantly gravitated to the other, with the boys in the middle and girls on end.
As is usually the case, the girls were quietly enjoying themselves, but the boys, they were loud, excited and boisterous.
Whether by conscious decision or not, a mother was sitting in the middle between the adults and kids. She was actively involved in the conversations on the adult side, but at the same time, completely aware of the actions and antics of the eleven to twelve year old boys at the table with her. Continue reading An Inconspicuous Smile
The last thing I wanted was a diversion. It’d been a long day.
Sure enough, diversion.
As I drove out, he was walking the opposite direction into a cold, 20 mph wind with light drizzling rain.
“Stop. Turn around and give him a ride” was the quiet, still message inside.
My internal response was, “Aww man!”
A quarter mile down the road, I felt bad, so a U-turn and a quarter mile back, I pulled up beside the tall, slender man.
He was probably 55 to 60 years old, carrying a plastic grocery bag in each hand. His clothes were old and worn, but clean and well cared for.
His head was ducked down, leaning into the frigid wind, and his arms remained close to his sides to try to stay warm while carrying milk in one bag and can goods in the other.
He looked up with a tired, worn expression, but when I asked through my truck window if he wanted a ride, his eyes lit up instantly. Continue reading A Little Favor
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
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
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
She was a cute little girl, about 9 years old, with her hair in corn rolls and little rubber bands at the end of each braid. She and her mother were walking up the sidewalk toward the restaurant, but her mother forgot something and stepped back to her car. The girl just stood on the sidewalk.
We were leaving, and quite frankly, I was talking to my brother-in-law as we obliviously walked past the little girl. Turnabout is fair play, because I suspect she didn’t give either of us a moment’s notice either.
She did, however, zero in like a heat seeking missile on my wife, Janet. After passing a few parked car bumpers, we realized Janet was no longer with us. We turned around and Janet was kneeling down looking the little girl eye to eye.
The little girl was mesmerized as Janet spoke to her with a compassionate, peaceful smile on her face. She stared in her eyes soaking up the gentle words and kindness that naturally flow from Janet’s spirit as they talked briefly back and forth. Continue reading You’re Pretty
True story — It was Thanksgiving Day and he got up ready for a day of family, feasting and football, but something was bugging him. He couldn’t get a co-worker who had been in the hospital and hadn’t worked for a month off his mind.
A crazy idea kept bouncing like a rubber ball in his head. He kept feeling like he was supposed to buy bags of groceries, including a turkey and all the trimmings, for the man and his family.
He dismissed it several times, but couldn’t shake the thought. A little later, the man’s wife needed something at the last-minute from the grocery store, so he loaded up two of his young sons to go with him.
At the store the thought was stronger than ever, so he grabbed a buggy and started filling it with canned goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, a turkey, milk, flour, eggs, the whole works. When his sons asked why he was getting so much, he told them they were about to give the food to someone. Continue reading No Logical Answer
When the heart’s tap root hits pain, angels cry. Do you feel it? Do you feel them, something, somewhere, swirling, moving, circling the soul as the root draws up pain watering the heart making it swarthy and bruised?
Some people, some personalities cannot get away from the pain. It’s not that they don’t deal with their own. They do. It’s that some can’t get away from other’s pain.
Sometimes out of the blue it can hit you, in the store, watching TV, hearing a story, understanding what has happened. The person’s pain, both shown, and even more intense, the hidden pain, grabs hold with a dry ice-cold grip burning the very beats of one’s own heart.
It can’t be explained with words, for words don’t express it. Letters can’t convey it, and the alphabet becomes nothing more than scissors on the tongue. You can’t get out what has gone in. Continue reading No More Angel Tears
We saw the toddler boy with his parents waiting to board a tour of Mayan ruins in Mexico. That’s not normally where you’d take a toddler on vacation, but he was too little to care. Besides, it was his parent’s vacation.
The toddler was clinging to his parents, no one else. The mother even told a well-meaning worker trying to help them off the bus that he never, ever went to strangers.
Two hours later, standing a distance from the Chichen Izu ruins, the toddler pitter patted away from his parents right up to my wife, Janet. He looked up at her and held up his arms to be picked up.
She simply said, “Awe”, reached down and scooped him up in her arms. The little boy looked at her closely, then laid his head on her shoulder in peaceful contentment. Continue reading A Child’s Wisdom
Sometimes pictures get me. It sounds silly. Maybe it is. But sometimes, a picture hits me in my core, cutting, ripping, tearing away at soul and sinew.
Some pictures, some stories haunt me as assuredly as a ghost in a graveyard. I can’t sleep without it popping into my dreams. I can’t concentrate without it popping into conscious thought.
This picture sticks with me like a chain around the heart:
Continue reading Help This Boy