Marolt: Six billion potential blessings to encounter
My mother calls me a blessing. It’s a high honor that doesn’t bring an expectation to perform. It’s not a title you compete for. Although I’m grateful, I don’t know how to express thanks. If I think about it too much, it makes my heart ache and puts a tear in my eye.
What do I do to deserve this? I drink coffee with her. I stop by most mornings on my way to work and we sip the decaffeinated, because she doesn’t care for the real stuff and I’m already jacked up from playing patty cake with the Keurig back home. Sometimes I stay only a few minutes, other times I stick around and shovel the walks or take care of minor maintenance issues around her house. It’s not a chore. It’s a gift — to me, just to be clear.
I don’t think this is why she calls me a blessing, though — at least it’s not the main reason. It’s because I’m still her child. She’s overly proud that I am a grown and responsible man, yet she still sees the little boy behind my brown eyes; sun-scarred and laced with thin, red streaks, perhaps the wear and tear of observing too hard for too long. What she sees is the innocence and sense of wonder that we all come into this world with and then lose our grip on as life takes its turns at full throttle.
My father was attentive to his elders. From the first frames of memory, I see myself sitting around the kitchens and porches of relatives, as the adults sipped and smoked and talked. It turned out to be an example that I follow. I pray my kids are paying attention.
I wasn’t thinking about this, but it was in the back of my mind as I sat at the traffic light at the Owl Creek Road intersection at Buttermilk when a young man crossed in front of my car on his way to joining a couple of other mid-20-somethings at the bus stop. He was alone at that moment, heading to where I can only guess. I don’t know if he was going to a job, a party, or home to watch television. All I know is that he was on his own for that moment, and I hoped it wouldn’t be for too long.
I remember that age, just out of school and living on my own, trying to figure things out. Looking back, I feel a nervousness for my young self, even though I didn’t at the time and, in fact, I know I enjoyed those times, maybe even a little too much once in awhile. I see all the obstacles that could have — probably should have — tripped me up, but miraculously didn’t.
I am looking back at the dog-eared pages of my life, many chapters in, after much of the plot has been revealed. We don’t know what we don’t know and I think that’s how we survive our youth. After 24 years of marriage, work, three kids, lots of in-laws, nieces and nephews, uncountable acquaintances, and a small handful of reliable-to-the-end friends, being 25 again seems lonesome. I wouldn’t go back if I could. A beautiful surprise about life is that every stage has gotten better, despite what I believed at each transition. I have faith that the trend continues to the end.
The arrow turned green and a silver Jeep zoomed past on the inside lane. The driver waved, glad to see me. It was Parker, my son’s old high school classmate, no different from the young people at the bus stop, except I know him. I’m friends with the people he is a blessing to; I guess I’m actually one of them. I knew he was heading home where somebody would be excited to see him and I was glad. I looked over at the bus stop one more time and saw children there in adult bodies. It struck me that my mother is still just a little girl living a grandmother’s life and a blessing to more people the longer she lives.
I decided to make a deal with the world on the eve of my children growing up. I promise to look for the child in everyone, the person who is a blessing to someone. I will give liberally the benefit of doubt. I will cut breaks generously, even to those who don’t appear obviously to deserve one. In exchange, I hope the world will show mercy to the blessings in my life.
Roger Marolt thinks we need more mercy in the world. Email at email@example.com.
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