The young boy was desperate. He looked up the road and saw only the immense distance that stretched out in front of him. A moment ago at least, his sister had walked beside him. Now, he was alone, miles from his destination. The tears fell as he walked. He would never get there. His life was over.
It had begun like any other school day, the call coming up the stairs. Perhaps, he had been a bit slow getting up. No matter, breakfast was still on the table and he had eaten. His mom had worked the night shift at the nursing home where she was the registered nurse, so Dad had made breakfast. It wasn’t all that good. He choked it down anyway. Some things you just had to do. That included eating your dad’s scrambled eggs and tapioca pudding first thing in the morning.
Then came the rush for the bus stop.
To put it bluntly, he had no one but himself to blame. He missed his bus. He might have been arguing with his sister.
He might even have been sulking about losing the argument when his brother yelled out, “Bus is coming!”
Why didn’t really matter. What mattered was that he missed the bus. What mattered was that this was the time his father had warned about. This was the time he was going to learn his lesson. This was the time his father refused to get the car out and take him or his sister (with whom he might have been arguing) to school.
They started out walking together. At first, they might have blamed each other for their predicament. That didn’t last long, as they both struggled under the weight of their books and realized there was no way they could get to school before the tardy bell rang.
Within blocks, a car stopped and his sister had a ride. Just like that. No, there was no room for the little boy. Besides, his school wasn’t on their way.
Just like that.
He was alone.
You do know that desperate means the same thing as being in despair, right? Out of options. No hope.
The young desperado had no expectation that anyone would ever help. None of his friends were likely to come along. His father wasn’t going to help. He was teaching him a lesson.
The boy was learning the lesson just fine, thanks. There was no reprieve coming. He was on his own. In despair.
On and on he trudged, the tears coursing down his pudgy cheeks. He had no hope of achieving his goal, but somehow he knew that he had to keep at it. His heart told him it was a useless attempt, but he kept moving anyway.
Then without warning, a familiar old green station wagon pulled up beside him. His mother, on her way home from the night shift, had seen him and came to his rescue. She would talk to his father about learning the lesson later. For now, the weeping boy needed to get to school before it was time to come home again.
The young man still remembers the feeling.
The weight in his soul of feeling abandoned? Gone in an instant.
The fear of more reprisals to come from his teacher and principal at school? Vanished like a vapor in the wind.
Despair turned to elation. Hopelessness became relief without mitigation.
The event, with both its dark horror of despair and its brilliant scene of redemption, is indelibly written in his memory for all time.
Mr. Thoreau said that most men live lives of quiet desperation. He even said that we go to the grave with the song still in us. I’ve always thought him an idiot.
I’m starting to think the idiot role is still up for grabs. I may have a shot at the job myself.
I thought him an idiot because I had never believed the words apply to me. I had never felt the desperation, never believed that all was hopeless.
I think I finally understand his words a little better. The desperation isn’t constant, but recently there are moments, perhaps even hours, when I wonder if it’s all worth the trouble. I sometimes feel as if I am trapped by the life I have chosen.
Once in awhile, even the good things are up for consideration, as I grapple with the overwhelming realization that the road stretches out in front of me.
And, I can never get there in time.
There’s not much singing during these periods, either. I’m not talking about singing in church, or even singing in the shower. When there is despair there is no song from the soul, no expression of joy, because there is no hope.
Mr. Thoreau may have had a better grasp on reality than I once believed.
I know there are many, perhaps even most, of you out there who have felt the hopelessness, the sense of being trapped without any escape.
Maybe it’s time for the old station wagon to pull alongside and give us a ride to our destination.
I got just such a ride a few days ago.
The Lovely Lady has mentioned on several occasions that she wanted to go to the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I haven’t been very cooperative. But, that weekend, we took a couple of days off to recharge a bit, and to rest. The trip to the museum finally went into the itinerary.
I griped as we went in the front door.
Nine dollars apiece! We could have a good meal for that!
I would regret the thought.
We walked through the doors to the gallery, and were greeted with a single painting. It was a large oil on canvas, about four feet tall by three feet wide. In somewhat drab colors, there was a mother seated with her two daughters, one on her lap, the other standing in her embrace. On the floor nearby was a basket of laundry, perhaps indicating that the woman was a domestic worker. Nothing about the picture indicated wealth or ease.
As I looked, I saw that the eyes of all three of the female figures were directed toward one small thing just inside the open window behind them. It took a moment to recognize the object they were surveying. If they were drab looking, it was downright depressing in its lack of color and distinction. I recognized it though.
It was a sparrow, eating something from the windowsill.
Right about then, the Lovely Lady spoke. “That’s the focal point of the whole painting, isn’t it?”
My ride had arrived.
A sparrow. Being fed. (Matthew 10:29-31)
I pointed to the English title on the French painting. He Careth, the letters pointed out needlessly. I could not read it aloud, for fear that the tears would start. They did anyway.
As we finally tore ourselves away from the astounding piece of art, the Lovely Lady spoke again.
“I think we’ve gotten our money’s worth, haven’t we?”
One painting. Such power. Such hope.
Who am I to disagree?
What about it? Have you missed the bus? Do you need a ride, too?
Despair flees in the face of hope and promise.
It was so for the young boy, and even more so for this aging man. I’m confident that your ride is already on its way, as well.
We’ll get there on time.
Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?
Come down from your fences, and open the gate
It may be rainin’, but there’s a rainbow above you
You better let somebody love you, before it’s too late.
(from Desperado ~ Frey, Henley ~ American singers/songwriters)
He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.
(Job 8:21 ~ NIV)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved.