I have this memory, a very faint one, that has been weighing heavily on mind the past few weeks. And right now, I think it will be taking up too much of my mind to focus on my Anthropology homework until I share it.
Just be warned… If you're not prepared for a pretty deep, diary-entry kind of sappy sob story, I would turn back now. I've been thinking hard about a good way to write this, and a good outlet in which to do so for quite some time now, and believe me, the minute I publish this I will then press print, and it will go straight into my journal. That's kind of how personal it is. But I still want to share it, and I hope it will help you think about your own similar memories, and help bring the spirit to your day.
But if you really want to keep reading I think, since this memory/story/whatever you would like to call it has more of a spiritual nature than anything, it might be a good idea before you continue to just scroll down to the bottom of the page and press pause on that fun little playlist, and listen to this while you read instead:
Have you ever taken time to think about the very first time you ever experienced a specific emotion? This is a difficult concept to try and explain. By that, I don't mean, for example, the first time you ever experienced love as being the first time you were ever actually in love with someone yourself, but more like, the first time you realized you knew what love must feel like? Sort of like, the first time you ever saw two people care so much for each other that it touched your own heart and you knew that THAT absolutely must be what that is. That happened to me when I was about seven. I had obviously never been in love myself at that point, except with my immediate family, my Barbie dolls, and my Disney movies, but after one experience, which I'll save for another time to describe, I knew that I knew that's what it was. And I couldn't wait to experience it for myself one day.
Well, this story is kind of like that, but involving a slightly different feeling, but that I think stems from the same part of your heart...and that is compassion, or real, heart breaking sorrow for the trials of another Child of God.
I remember being ten or eleven years old, at the height of the most self-absorbed, narcissistic stage of my life. I was on a school bus, returning to school from a field trip of some kind, I can't even remember. It must have been May or August, at the very end or very beginning of the school year, because it was unbearably hot. We were driving down a long, empty, two lane road, and there were no cars for miles ahead or behind us, and there was nothing but sun-damaged, ugly, yellow grass in every direction.
Somewhere in the middle of this desert, though, we approached a boy on the side of the road, and in less than five seconds, I learned the greatest lesson from this one person than I ever have, before or since, in my life. This boy could not have been older than sixteen or seventeen, and he was dressed entirely in black from head to toe, carrying a full, heavy backpack that was practically ripped to pieces. He was also completely drenched in sweat, and it was obvious he hadn't had any water in far too long, given the heat. The thing that struck me most, however, was the fact that he could barely walk because he was limping, and in his hands was a torn up sign, and the 8 words written on it were the first words I ever read that ripped me to pieces.
"Please help, I just want to go home."
I considered myself to be a nice enough person back then, but like any normal ten or eleven-year-old, my own cares and problems had a short shelf-life and rarely extended beyond silly fights with my younger sisters, or what I might be wearing to school the next day. I lived a very, very sheltered life, and I'm certainly paying for that now. I had seen homeless people around before, of course, but I never, ever paid them any attention. "They did that to themselves," I was told about most of them, or "all they want is your money, so they can run off and waste it on their next drugs, alcohol, etc., and they'll ruin their lives even further," and even if it wasn't true, which I'm sure in many cases it wasn't, I never let myself be bothered by "those people." I had a nice, two story home, my own room, nice clothes, food on the table, and a family that loved me, so at that age what did I have to worry myself with these people, who just didn't take care of themselves enough to have the same kind of nice life that I did?
But this boy taught me different. Somehow, in those five seconds in which my school bus approached and then left him behind forever, I knew he was different than the other people with unfortunate lives that I had come across before. It was almost like a spiritual manifestation that let me know he didn't deserve what he was going through, and it was very first time I ever felt truly sorrowful over what another person, another Child of God, was experiencing.
I was the only person on that bus, as far as I know, that even noticed how much this boy was hurting. I asked everyone around me, my friends and my teachers, if they saw. Most of them hadn't, and even if they did they hadn't though anything of it. It broke my heart to know that nobody but my school group had passed by him in hours, and that in an entire caravan of school buses, with backpacks full of food and water, any one of them could have stopped by to offer him, if not a ride, a simple aid to get him on his way, but instead we left him behind and nobody ever gave him another thought.
I remember walking in my front door after arriving home and breaking down in tears trying to describe the whole thing to my mother. I remember her being a little bit confused as to why this experience upset me so much, but trying to calmly reassure me that there was absolutely nothing that I, one single small, powerless student on a school bus with a tight schedule, could have done to change what happened. And I knew it was true, but it didn't really make me feel any better.
I've thought about this boy from time to time ever since this happened. I don't know anything about him, where he came from, his name, or where he wanted to go other than "home", and though I'm sure he'll never know the effect he had on me in those few seconds, I have been rooting for him ever since. He gave me my first true glimpse of what true compassion is like. Even further, for the first time I truly recognized the true eternal nature of another precious Child of God. I knew and had been taught that I myself was a Child of God, loved beyond my wildest imagination, from the time I was born. But I knew in that moment that God loved this boy and wanted the best for him, perfectly and exactly as much as He wanted it for me. I couldn't do a single thing about his circumstances, and like the example of love I used earlier in which at age seven I couldn't personally experience what love really was like, this particular situation is entirely responsible for illuminating for me how it was necessary for me to continue feeling love and compassion for others in the future, and recognizing the love Heavenly Father has for all of his precious children. I'm not even close to claiming that I'm the most perfectly Christlike example of a generous, loving, completely full of service individual, but this experience singlehandedly taught me the value of striving every day to become one.
I'm sure I'll never meet this boy face to face in this life, although I suppose that if I ever have, there would be know way of knowing. I would never recognize him enough to ask "Were you that struggling, injured boy on the side of the road somewhere between Keller and Fort Worth sometime in the afternoon in maybe May or August almost a decade ago?" and he would never in a million years be able to see me and ask "Hi, were you that one girl in a line of buses who never forgot about me?" But I keep a small part of my heart reserved entirely for hoping that he found his way back home.
We all have those lists of questions, either in our journals, or our minds and hearts, of questions that we have reserved for Heavenly Father when we finally meet Him. This boy's well-being has been on that list of questions ever since I saw him, and I have faith that one day we'll meet and I'll get to thank him for changing my life.
All my love, B.