A young boy wrestles with love, friendship and humanitarian aid.
|Entered in November Quotation Inspiration:
The small room next to the fellowship hall smelled of crayola, markers, glue and construction paper. The intoxicating scents intensified the nearer Jacob was drawn. He wanted to create beautiful images for Miss Hart. She had marveled at the five-year-old child's imagination, sharing his artwork with the rest of the Sunday school children. They seemed less than interested. It did not bother the young artist.
"Okay, class. Let's form a circle. Use your quiet voices." Gwendolyn Jane Hart's green eyes gleamed. She stroked dark auburn hair nestled neat on her shoulders. She patiently watched the kindergarten-aged group jockey for positions by best friends and prime spots on the thick area rug. All but a few were obedient. Ken and Doug were distracted with yellow construction truck and crane and two piles of Lincoln logs. "Boys, we're waiting," her voice firm. The six others craned necks to peer back at the disinterested pair struggling to give up their fun before standing and entering the ring. Jake sat alone in front, looking up with his usual joyous admiration.
A projector in the back was aimed at the screen in front of them. "We have a movie today," Gwendolyn brightly announced. "Before we start, does anyone remember what we talked about last Sunday?" Only one hand went up, "Jake, would you tell us?"
"Kids in Africa that are starving. They don't get to eat hamburgers and spaghetti. They need help because they are very sick and could die."
"Yes, very good!" Jacob soaked up his teacher's warming words. "Today, we are going to meet those children and their families. You will be able to see their living conditions and how much they love Jesus, too. Okay? So, let's get started." Miss Hart's long, slender fingers hovered over the light switch, taking note briefly of horseplay in the back. "We're ready to start now, Dougie, Ken?" The lights, then, softly went out. Jacob snuggled in his spot, eyes wide with anticipation. With deft touch, her finger lifted the lever on the posted machine. The reel lurched forward spooling film forward evenly, sending frames like a river through inner light past the lens.
Jacob was still, expecting happy kids playing. It would be the reverse. Many images were of sad, long faces. Families covered by flies needed mosquito nets. Many lived in muddy squalor -- unable to farm, barely able to feed themselves. He thought they looked full with round bellies. He knew it wasn't right. They were sick from something; they weren't eating good enough food. He learned of humanitarian aid. Many people, dressed for church (some with bibles in hand), were in photos giving comfort and sacrificing to help these indigent people. Jacob sensed a need to warm their faces somehow. It seemed hopeless he would ever meet these kids half a world away.
When the lights went on, half of the students were pulling themselves off each other. Shortly after the throat clearing, "Okay, as you can see, these children need our help. That is why I want each of you to bring a dollar to collection next week. This month our givings are going to make sure they will have proper food and shelter. Each of you can draw a nice picture, too, to go with your donation. Miss Hart gave a special wink to her star pupil. Ken rolled his eyes, while Doug used his to shoot arrows into Jacob's back.
Once released, the children scurried out. There was discussion of a class picture. But Jacob wanted to make it, lingering to put the final touches on his art: throwing a football to brown, little boys with big bellies. Once upstairs, he slid under the arm of his mother talking to Doug's mom in the Narthex. She continued her discussion while rubbing her son's soft blonde hair. He kept a vigilant eye on the activity around them. The boys were running in and out of the sanctuary, trying to tag one another. They almost ran into an elderly man who stopped and stared before they settled down. Jacob couldn't wait to divulge his plan, tugging at his mother's Sunday best. She kept motioning to quit, when the organ music summoned.
After an hour fidgeting in a pew, Jacob was outside alone watching kids throw small rocks from the gravel alongside the church to a culvert by the street below. He wanted to fling rocks, too. He didn't dare near the two disheveled boys who were grass-stained and smudged. After negotiating her way past church-goers with pleasantries, he could finally reveal. Margaret was in a hurry, though. She made a bee-line past her little one for the driver side of the two-door Plymouth. He quickly got in so he could spill the news.
"Okay, you've been dying to tell me something. I'm all ears." The car firing up couldn't drown up Jacob's retelling of the film, the picture he drew and the money he was going to give the starving children. His distracted mother, planning lunch in her head while navigating the street, managed to nod her assent. Jacob didn't notice she was barely paying attention.
Pulling money from his piggy bank was Jacob's favorite game. 'Piggy' was a Christmas gift from his teenaged brother, Mike. Jacob always put the savings back after counting. This time it would be different. With plying butter knife, the excited five-year-old extracted over ten dollars and some change. The folded ones were the hardest to wedge out, but an expedition worth missing lunch. "All of it? Are you sure," his mother asked staring at the bounty in the folds of bedding on the lower bunk. There seemed no truer purpose for his savings. Jacob was ready for next Sunday now.
With tears in his eyes, Jacob stood alone on the back stairwell that entered the front of the sanctuary. Ken and Doug had already escaped up the stairs. He never felt more alone or sad and did not want to see anyone: not his mom, Miss Hart or God. The echoes of their words hurt more than the gruff way the two handled his shirt when they caught their nemesis and pushed him to the wall. 'Trying to make us look bad?' 'You like Miss Hart, teacher's pet!' Jacob knew a button came off in the unexpected melee. It wasn't but a half hour earlier he felt he had changed the world for orphans and kids with their families. Miss Hart hugged him, praised him, exalted him to no end for what seemed all class long. He gave every last penny he had! Jacob blushed redder than the boys resulting anger.
Caught between two assembly halls, Jacob couldn't make himself walk those stairs. He decided to hide until the organ played. He thought he could hear his mother calling while hunkered in the shadows. Smells of the remaining fresh-baked cinnamon buns and leftover coffee swirled about. When the organ abated, the young boy ran out the fellowship hall upstairs to the Narthex and out the front doors. He had an hour to disappear, plan an excuse for the forthcoming scolding
Jacob came to the edge of the hill where the boys threw rocks. The street below seemed so distant but just a short way down. He wanted to pitch something. His heart would not allow him to lift a thing. All that Jacob could imagine was the collection of stones below -- what it would be like to linger about them, alone. The longer he sat next to the little white church, the faster time seemed to elapse. He could sense his fate was near.
The pearly blue Ford cleared its throat in the street in front of the Church of Christ. Jacob Instantly knew the syncopated harmony of that guttural machine. He could imagine how it quaked whenever his brother had him 'strap in' for a ride around their block. Mom wasn't trusting enough to let a high school senior take his 'little bro for a spin.' Mike let the '63 Galaxie 500 idle its 409 horses, while he got out. His little brother was already half around the church when they got separated by a gaggle of admiring boys. Doug and Ken were amid the throng. "Mike," Jacob frantically shouted. The dark-haired teen in light-blue windbreaker located him and with an index finger motioned to come over.
The group saw the interaction and the small boy break their ranks before stepping up to this new idol. "How's your day, Jake?" Mike said with his usual demeanor, calmly scanning little brother's eyes to see the answer. "Come on! We're going for a real ride this time. Shakes and burgers at the drive-in sound good?"
"Yeah!" Jacob was already healing and sighed. As he got in the car he heard the moans and some shouts to 'Rev it!' and more quietly, 'That kid?'
"I heard what you did today," Mike said, and with a wink held one foot on the brake with the other hovering the gas. He didn't have a hand on the clutch. "How does it feel to know you're a hero?" Without waiting for an answer, "Keep doing stuff like that and you're going to change the world." His big brother slowly let out the clutch and the powerful car lurched before slowly humming down the hill to the street below. Jacob glowed like light. The gathered clan began dispersing, looking disappointed. That's when Jacob noticed his mother at the top of the church steps. He thought it looked like she was crying. He did not recognize her emotion but was certain no explanation would be necessary.