Living

October 18, 2009
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Once upon a time there was a boy who grew into a man.

Now, I’m sure you all know people who fit that description. You may even belong to that demographic yourself. But this was no ordinary boy. If he was just an ordinary boy, why should I bother telling his story?

So, you see, this will be the story of a boy who grew into a man. But if I’m going to tell you the story of this extraordinary boy, I suppose I should first why he is so extraordinary that his story is worth telling.

It began when he was a small boy, impressionable and naïve. At that time, he often heard his parents telling him that they loved him, and that he could do anything he wanted. So, being the young boy he was, he decided that he was going to do something worthwhile and change the world.

As he grew into a man, the idea stayed with the boy and began to take shape. He thought that he might become the leader of his country, the head of a large corporation, or design a revolutionary product that would make life in industrialized countries easier, while eliminating poverty.

However, when the boy became a man in the reckoning of his people, his worldview changed. There were too many people and too many problems that needed to be solved. He would never be able to make enough of an impact on any one thing to change the world. The man, conforming to the norms of his culture, took an entry-level job in an undistinguished business and gave up on making his dream a reality.

Yet still, deep inside the man, his youthful, idealistic dreams lived on, and he lived with always the feeling that something was missing from his otherwise contented life. As the man went up the career ladder, got married, had children, watched them grow up and move out, and started to prepare for his retirement, he looked back on the days when he had been a boy, bringing out and examining all his hopes, his fears, and his dreams.

His dreams.

Now, contemplating his imminent departure from the workforce and the sudden appearance of free time, such as he had not had since he was a boy, dreaming the dreams of childhood, the man examined his old dream of changing the world. He was older now, and quite possibly a little wiser than he had been all those many years ago when he had abandoned that dream as childhood idealism. But now, having lived all those many more years, he knew that when he was a child, he had been right. One person could change, however little, the world.

With that as his new reality, the man, now growing old, travelled the world, abandoning family and friends for the sole mission of helping others whom life had made less fortunate than he. He worked with orphans in Africa, gave medical care in South America, and built homes in Asia. His life was full and pleasant, and any discomfort that he suffered was made irrelevant by the fact that he was living his lifelong dream.

And yet, something still was missing. Then, at last, when his body gave out on him and he could work no more, he went home to his wife, who, loving him more than anything, welcomed him back with open arms, despite her anguish at his absence these many years, his guilt at leaving her alone for that time, and the changes to both that the other had not witnessed, nor been a part of. Through her, he apologized to his children, who welcomed him back to fill the void in their lives that he had unintentionally left, trying to fill one of his own.

However, the man’s body was broken down and continuing to break, and no sooner had cordial relationships been re-established with the last of his children that he realized he was now on his deathbed. The man asked his children, his grandchildren, and his wife to come see him one more time before he died, if they would. To his surprise, because after all, he had neglected them for years in pursuit of his personal dreams, everyone came, because they all loved him.

It was as they were parading through his sickroom, alone or in small groups, each one having a few words with the old man for the last time, that a thought struck him. None of these people, with the possible exception of his wife, would exist if he hadn’t. Even if he had not abandoned them for years to spend his time in service of others, trying to change the world and only managing a few lives, these people were his offering to the world. This was how he had, unintentionally, not even thinking of the consequences as he did it, changed the world.

With that thought came the last of his visitors, and when they were gone he closed his eyes in an attempt to get some rest after a long day spent with the people he loved. Opening them, he saw his wife in a chair beside him. She took hold of his hand, caressed it tenderly, and smiled.

Seeing her husband awake, she whispered “Oh, I do love you.” It amazed the old man, the strength of her devotion and her love after he had abandoned her, but he respected and loved her all the more for it.

“And I love you,” he murmured, closing his eyes once more, leaning back on his pillows and letting go of his last breath. His flesh started to go cold as the life left it and his hand went limp in his wife’s grip. Startled, tears began falling from her eyes, dripping down her face and onto her husband’s now lifeless body before her mind had grasped the event that had come to pass.

The man was buried in an ordinary grave, in an ordinary cemetery. Some years later, his wife was buried beside him.

See, this boy who grew into a man was really just an ordinary person. All he did was notice the impact he had on the world by being.





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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

Mickie<3 said...
Nov. 23, 2009 at 5:35 pm
This stry is both touching and moving. I dont think i could have worded nor wrtten such a great peice! Congrats on such a work!!!!!<3
 
trombonewriter replied...
Nov. 23, 2009 at 6:30 pm
Thanks! I turned it into a really bad comic strip for my French class, but I really like the story the best. And you probably could write something like that if you wrote about something you really cared about, so go for it!
 
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