“How can my life go wrong now?” I thought, “I have everything I want.” But suddenly an icy hand of fear chills my spine and bitterness floods up my veins as I remember my past. Tears spring unbidden to my eyes, as the memories flood in faster than the tears that now stain my cheeks. “I don’t want to remember” I whisper.
Back then, nothing was in right order. I had no parents, and was on the streets of New York; a tough life for a twelve year old. The years consisted of cold winter nights, and scorching summer afternoons. I would stand on a street corner and beg for money, or food. I would stand there, with a cardboard sign that stated roughly; “No home. Need food and money” The occasional ‘Good Samaritan’ would stop and chuck a few coins into my upturned felt cap. But other than that, I was on my own. I really don’t know how I survived those years. Maybe it was the hope of someone wanting me, but whatever it was, it kept the fire burning in me for five painful years. As my thirteenth birthday came around, I hit rock bottom. There was nothing that could bring my life any lower. Utterly lost in the ocean of loneliness and drowning in my own self-pity. I would not sleep at nights because I was afraid to wake up and find out I was still here; still in the pit that many fall, and few return. I knew I was one of the many. I was not one of the few. The days passed by, and I just existed without living. I was not human, I was nobody. One day, I was out on my usual corner, when someone came to me and started talking to me. Nothing made sense, the person just kept saying things like “You’re lost, and you need a savior” or “all you have to do is believe!” I knew I wasn’t lost, and I certainly believed that my life was a real one… All I could think was: “This person is either high or drunk.” I ignored them. The next day, the person was there. And once again, I was proselytized with their biblical jargon. After that I moved to a different street corner. I wasn’t about to become somebody’s ‘project’. When I turned fourteen, I still had no hope, and no want of life. But something happened that changed the course of my life. I was walking to my corner, when I heard a sound. I looked to my right and there stood a solitary box. It was moving. I did what curiosity told me to, I looked into the box. There was one small black pitiful looking kitten. I didn’t want an animal, so I just kept walking. I heard a rustling behind me. I turned around and saw the box had tipped somehow and the kitten had started crawling over to me. The grey clouds started dropping icy rain. I did not want to get caught in this storm, so I turned and walked back to my small hovel. I felt worse than the dark foreboding clouds looked. Suddenly I saw a shape moving through the sheets of freezing drops. It was the kitten; but now it did not look like a kitten. It looked like a wet towel that someone tossed into a ditch. The kitten was barely moving. It did, however, let out a single, quiet “mew” and that was it. I tried to ignore it, but I just could not bring myself to let a tiny kitten die. I ran out, into the pelting rain scooped up the poor little thing, and sprinted back. The kitten looked up at me and I could’ve sworn it gave me a grateful look.
What happened that day made me stop thinking about myself, and focus more on one that needed compassion, and help.
your step-mom, Deborah
I did not know what to do. I just stared at the letter in disbelief. I thought she had moved to California. I could not bring myself to believe she was here; in the big city. I had the early shift the next morning, so I went to bed, and hoped to wake up and find it was all a dream. A bad dream. It was not. This was reality. Suddenly, my life felt kind of surreal. I didn’t know when I was dreaming, or when I wasn’t. Friday rolled around, than Saturday, then Sunday. I still had to go to work. But the problem was that SHE would be there too. I didn’t want to go. I left that morning a little early. My Taurus was in the shop, so I walked to McDonalds. I was used to walking places. Unfortunately, there was a little church on the way. I usually rolled up my windows as I drove past. However, seeing as I had no windows to roll up; I would just have to ignore the music. But for some reason, I couldn’t. I attempted to, but every time I tried to think of something else, this music would break that thought down. I suddenly recognized the song. It was a tune my mother, my real mother, would sing to me, when I was just a small child. The whole scene left me with a feeling of; “I’ve done this before…” Again, the words pierced my sub-conscious thoughts: White as snow, white as snow, though my sins were as scarlet, Lord I know, Lord I know, that I’m clean and forgiven. Through the power of your blood, through the wonder of Your love, through faith in You, I know that I can be, White as snow!
I finally made it out of earshot of the church, but the song still rung loudly in my head. I thought to myself: “How can someone’s blood clean me? Doesn’t blood stain? Who would love me enough to clean me with their own blood?” and other thoughts along those lines. As I walked up the McDonalds, I had completely forgotten about my step-mother. That is, until I stepped through the door. She was in a corner booth. I could hardly recognize her. But I did not want her to see me, so I moved quickly behind the counter, and timed in. I now had an excuse if she wanted to talk to me; I’m busy serving other people. I knew what my job was, so I got to work, trying to ignore the woman in the corner. She did not leave at twelve, or two, or even five. She just sat there. I tried to avoid her; and was successful until my boss told me, to tell “that lady” that “she’s loitering.” I went as slow as possible, but I could not delay the inevitable. “Excuse me, Ma’am.” She looked up from a book she was reading. I continued; “um, you are, um… well, loitering.” She looked at me with surprise, and a hint of sadness. “Really?” she asked. “Well, yeah” I replied. She simply closed the book, and got up. I almost let her walk out, but for some crazy reason, I heard myself ask her: “Ma’am is your name, Deborah?” she stopped dead in her tracks. “Excuse me?” she turned and stared at me. This was the same stare that she used when I told her I never wanted to see her again, or when I said she wasn’t my mother. All of my old feelings resurfaced with a vengeance. “Yes, I am Deborah.” She said cautiously. I did not know what to do. It seemed as though I had no control over what my voice was saying; and for the second time, I heard myself say: “Deborah, I am Alex.” My stepmom’s hand flew to her face and I could see the tears well up instantly. “Why didn’t you tell me you were here?” she asked. Suddenly, I could talk again. I was so overwhelmed however, I couldn’t have said anything if I had wanted to. For some reason, I just wanted to comfort this lady I front of me. This lady who I used to hate, I could feel nothing but pity for her. I hugged her. Tears took their place in my eyes as she said: “I love you Alex.” I could no longer keep my emotions in as questions flooded out. She and I sat back down at that tiny little corner booth; and started at the beginning. We didn’t stop until my boss strode up and said: “Ma’am, you are loitering; I ask that you please leave.” Deborah stood and walked toward the door. “Wait!” I called. “Here is my address.” She thanked me and closed the door. I got home that night around 9:00 with a light feeling, as if a huge burden had just been thrown off my back. I was happy. I could not remember having this feeling since I was 5 or 6 years old. Homeless seemed to sense my joy. She always seemed to have a keen insight into what I though, or felt. I awoke the next morning, and shocked the drowsiness with a mug of coffee. I poured Homeless’ food, and left to pick up my car. I took a different route so I could bypass the little church completely. I got home, and noticed Homeless hadn’t touched her food. I guessed it was because it was a new, cheaper brand. I thought nothing of it, and cleaned up for work.
It was after 11:30 when I got back home from McDonalds, and I was tired. I barely made it to my bedroom, before I collapsed into bed. There were times I had some strange dreams, but doesn’t everybody, at one time or another? Tonight I had one of those dreams: I was sitting on the couch in my living room, and my mother walked in, and looked at me. “Feed the cat honey.” I got up and started to, but realized there was already food in the bowl. “Mom, the cat already has food.” She just kept staring. “Feed the cat.” I began to protest, when my mom pointed her finger to the door. “Go feed the cat.” She said. “Mom,” I reasoned, “The cat’s food bowl is right here.” Mom repeated herself again. I was getting a little scared now, and so I walked outside. There, an empty food bowl sat, and right next to it, lay a towel. Curious, I picked it up. Underneath, Homeless lay. Dead. Suddenly, I jerked awake. A cold sweat covered me. I was shaking. I did not want to know the meaning of this dream. I was afraid. “Dreams don’t mean anything.” I told myself. I did not believe myself. I got up, and called for Homeless. She did not come. My heart jumped to my throat. I choked; “No, no, no! This can’t happen!” I frantically searched the entire house. No trace whatsoever. Then I noticed the food bowl; it was still full. I needed some fresh air! I ran and opened the door, and stopped dead in my tracks. There, on the porch, sat an empty food bowl. But my attention was not on the food bowl. It was on the towel lying next to it. I knew what was underneath. I slowly turned the corner up. There lay my precious Homeless. Not a spark of life in her. My legs turned to jelly. I slumped down, and cuddled the lifeless form in my arms, and cried. I cried like I had never before. I never had loved anything, or anyone, more than Homeless. I realized, then, that it was Homeless; who had thrust me from the pit of despair, and self-pity. Now, her job was done. I only could hope that she died peacefully. I don’t know what clicked in me then, but from that day on, I had changed. I can’t really explain what transpired that night. I was sitting on the porch crying and asking God: “Why? Why now, my life was finally in order! Do you hate me? I’ve never done anything to you!” suddenly, the song from the church bled into my thoughts. “Though my sins were as scarlet” I thought to myself: “Having Homeless was not a sin!” The song, now surging into my subconscious, ripped through my mind. “Lord I know, that I’m clean and forgiven,” I knew I was not clean. I also knew the song was not talking about Homeless. I was trying to talk my way around the obvious. I just did not know what to do. All of the sudden, I wanted to be ‘white as snow’ I wanted to be clean, and forgiven! I started singing the song softly to myself. Soon, the song turned to sobs, and the sobs turned to a prayer. A prayer for forgiveness. A prayer that would make me; white as snow.
The next morning, I called my mom and told her of the late night experience. I told her about Homeless, about the thoughts that overwhelmed me at the time, and I told her about the prayer. The life changing prayer. I could tell my Mom got choked up about the cat. Even though she had never seen her, I had told her how much I had loved that cat. She sounded exited when I told her about the prayer. “Alex, I cannot tell you how much this means to me. All I wanted was to tell you about God, but I never got the chance, before you, well, before you left.” I knew she was right. “Look, Mom, I’m sorry about the way I ran away, I was just so confused, and stressed… Will you forgive me?” That did it for my Mom; I heard her crying on the other side. “Yes, of course Alex! Of course I forgive you!” Now here I was, just on the eve of my twentieth birthday, and my life had come apart, and been put back together, in only 6 hours. I was a completely new person. My outlook on life was different now; however, there were many times my new life was challenged by something.
Two months after I turned twenty-three, my mom died, a few weeks later, I was in a car accident. I was paralyzed in both my legs. Again, my life was shifted into third gear. I was now a paraplegic. Everything seemed unreal to me for a few years after that. I had to get used to living my life in a wheelchair. One night, around 11:00, I heard a really loud commotion coming from the kitchen. I wheeled myself in, and to my utter astonishment, the door was open, and a black figure stood before me; his weapons drawn from my sudden appearance. I scooped the cat up, and he put his claws away. I then closed the door. The intelligent little guy had somehow opened the door, and had come in, and was feasting on the butter that was sitting on the counter. I had promised myself, when Homeless had died, I would never have another animal. But this cat was so scrawny, and malnourished, I could not, in my wildest dreams send him back out the door. I named him Scram; short for scrawny, and malnourished. Scram had a tendency to melt my heart as soon as I would look at him. He would give me this look of, “Do I make you happy?” or “May I eat now?” I will never forget little Scram. He surprised me, and lived completely opposite of his name. He was small for a full grown cat, but his belly made up for what he lacked in size. I had never owned an animal that ate that much, I didn’t even eat that much! I think God sent this guy to help me heal after the accident. God knew that animals were the ‘Band-Aids’ of my life.
I had grown up on the streets of New York, so I had plenty of knowledge of went on out there. I knew what could happen to 12 and 13 year olds. I knew that I was one of the fortunate few, who ever survived. One night, I had just gone to bed, Scram was under the bed; he always slept there, I had another weird dream: I could see myself; I was sitting on a busy road. Cars were just driving straight through me. I was walking across the road. I stopped at a trash can, and opened the lid. A small child was in it. She had a dirty face, tangled blonde hair, and deep, sad, blue eyes. She just looked up at me and mouthed the word; “Help!” I put the lid back on and walked back across the road. There sat a young boy. He jumped up when he saw me and gave me a hug. “Did you go save my sister?” he asked. I then realized the girl was his sister. I turned around, and saw her trying to cross over to me. She kept screaming “BROTHER!! WHERE ARE YOU?!” the boy suddenly yelled out, and started sprinting across the street. The driver of an oncoming car slammed his brakes. But I could tell they weren’t going to stop in time. I started running across, but I realized I was supposed to be in a wheelchair. I collapsed in the middle of the road. Both children were not out of harm’s way yet, but neither was I. I was right in the path of a Truck. The truck drove right through me. I remembered; the cars could not hit me! I crawled over and started dragging the kids to safety. Multiple times I was driven through. It hurt, but did not injure me. I knew I could endure the pain, as long these kids were safe. After what seemed like an hour, I made it safely across the street. Then I woke up. I had no idea what the dream meant. The clock on my bedside dresser said: 3:48. I went back to sleep, but the same dream came to me again, and again. On the third dream however, a man got out of his car, and helped me get across. He then leaned over to me and whispered: “These kids need someone to help, protect, and save them. God knows, they do!” I jumped awake at those final words. I heard Scram jump as well; except there was a piece of wood above his head. I winced; “That sounded like it hurt.” I knew what this dream was all about. I looked at the clock; 5:34. The dream kept replaying inside my head. Especially the words “God knows they do!” “Lord, I think I understand what you are telling me, but I have no resources, no money, and no skills!” I opened my Bible directly to Lamentations 5:3-4. We are orphans-our fathers dead, our mothers widowed. We must even pay for water to drink; our fuel is sold to us at the highest of prices. “I’m sorry Lord; I know you will bring the resources if you want me to do this.” I was going to start a children’s rescue. I immediately started forming a plan. Scram jumped up onto the bed, and I started petting him absentmindedly.
Around 10:00 that morning, I called the pastor of the little white church. I was going to ask him for any ideas on how to get started. Before I even had time to explain what was going through my head, the pastor started talking. “Hey Alex, I know God has a plan in store for you. Even though you are a paraplegic, that does not mean you cannot do great things!” I thanked God silently and told the pastor about my plan. God never ceased to amaze me. When He wanted to get a point to me, He sure knew how to do it! I knew I couldn’t do it on my own, so I called a couple of my friends, and got their advice. Most of them thought the children’s rescue was a good idea. Some even volunteered to help me get it started. “How can my life go wrong now?” I think, “I have everything I need.” I no longer have that icy hand of fear freezing my spine. Bitterness is not flooding through my veins anymore. My eyes are now dry, as the memories fade. “Thank-you Lord; for helping me to remember” I whisper. I know a new chapter in my life has just begun. The old is put off, and I step willingly into the next page of my life. “Thank-you God, for everything you have given me. Thank-You for my helplessness, for without You, I am nothing, but in You, I can do all things!”
This is a short story I wrote last year. It took me several months, but with the encouragement of some great friends, and family, I got there. I hope it encouraged you today.