The sky was dark outside of Petal Middle School because of a torrential rainstorm that was bearing down on our small town. All of the students were rushing to avoid the rain – all of them except me. I stopped by the gutter where water was gushing over the edges, put my head under the waterfall, drenched my hair, and then slicked it back. I thought it was hilarious. My teacher did not. When I walked into class, my teacher saw my soaking wet hair and loudly ordered me to get out of the room. I walked across the hallway…
As I clicked “publish” on my blog post, I had a faint hope that I would find my fifth-grade English teacher, Ms. Saucier. The blog post was titled “If Jesus were a fifth-grade teacher.” I had lost touch with Ms. Saucier several years before and despite online searches, I had come up with nothing. The blog post was both a tribute and a last-ditch effort to find her.
It was my junior year of college and I didn’t have the money I needed to pay off my tuition for the fall semester. I was a couple hundred dollars short and there was no Plan B. Believe it or not, I had no student loans. I was fortunate enough to have a scholarship that covered half of my tuition. And thanks to going to a state university, the bill was low enough that I could make the payments by working 25 hours a week as an errand runner at the hospital. Somehow, though, I hadn’t saved enough money to…
A few years ago, I moved to a window office at work and sent an email around letting everyone know I had relocated. In the email, I jokingly invited everyone to come by for a “tour” of the new space and apologized that I didn’t have any hors d’oeuvres for my guests. Well, I didn’t have hors d’oeuvres yet.
It was Christmas Day of 2002 and I boarded a flight to Milwaukee with a ham as a carry-on. The ham was a gift from my mom to my ham-loving brother. The ham was in a box, which I put in the overhead compartment next to my bag, and then waited to take off. Unfortunately, though, we sat on the tarmac for 45 minutes, raising the risk of me missing my connecting flight in Detroit.
“Honey, I’m not feeling well,” I said as my stomach began churning after Christmas Eve dinner at my sister’s house. Three hours later, I was slumped over a toilet, feeling the full effect of a merciless virus.
It was Christmas of 1984, and my mother crammed my three older siblings and me into a compact car and took us to Arkansas to celebrate the holiday. I vaguely remember it — my mother, on the other hand, remembers it quite clearly. Apparently, it was pretty rough. No doubt, putting one adult, two older teenagers and two small boys into a small car for six hours was a recipe for disaster. One of us — I shall not say who — was behaving horribly and Mom couldn’t seem to get control of the situation. She was exasperated nearly the entire time.
For a period of time in third grade, I cringed when it came time to pay for my lunch — there wasn’t enough money for us to pay for it. I felt humiliated by getting free lunch. I had seen kids walk up to the lunch lady without handing her any change and I had looked down on them. Now I was one of those kids.
One time, I met a D.C. traffic-directing cop in the line at the mall and I remarked how dangerous her job was. “I mean, people in D.C. drive so crazy,” I said. “You could get killed.” “Oh no,” she said, “don’t feel sorry for me. Feel sorry for the people in parking enforcement. They get screamed at, spat on, cursed out – you name it. It’s horrible.”
When I was in third grade, I had problems behaving. My heart was in the right place, but my good intentions didn’t make it to the surface a lot of the time. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to follow the rules.
I was a poor law student living on $300 a month, and as soon as I saw the police cars down the road, I instinctively put my foot on the break. I couldn’t afford a ticket. It was just a police checkpoint though. I slowed down, stopped beside the officer, and handed him my driver’s license. He furrowed his brow.
I sat on a bench in a beautiful cemetery visiting with the woman who would be my wife and tried to ignore my sad, racing heart. Our relationship was about to end — not because I wanted it to — because she was about to learn the awful truth. “There’s something I need to tell you,” I said.
I have a friend who will have an empty seat at his Thanksgiving table this year. That seat belonged to his father, who died recently. A few days ago, a doctor told another friend that his dad probably wouldn’t live to see Thanksgiving next year. I have yet another friend who was in a car accident and is in the hospital with serious injuries right now. He will be having Thanksgiving there.
Nine years ago, I asked God to give me something a lot of people would think was ridiculous: a parking spot. It wasn’t just any parking spot though.
Last week I made an unexpected phone call to an old friend, and five days later, countless thousands of people had heard about the conversation.