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Vignette 3

Andrew ran into the house yelling, "Mom, turn on the news!  Turn on the news!"

He flung his backpack onto the kitchen table and took a flying leap over the back of the couch.
His mother looked at him, rolled her eyes, and asked "What's so all-fired important about the news?  You NEVER watch the news."  She looked with exasperation at her 18 year-old son.  He was tall, and tow-headed.  His hair was cut very short because he had the worst cowlick on the planet.  His brilliant blue eyes were covered by glasses.  For the millionth time, she regretted not having had the surgery done to correct his lazy eye when he was a baby.  She hadn't wanted to hurt him that way.  She had had no idea how much pain would come later on from leaving it alone.  He smelled like chicken wings.  He had just gotten out of work at the bar/restaurant she owned.  

"It was on at the bar, Mom.  It's about Ellen!  Do you remember Ellen?  She's in trouble, Mom.  Turn it ON!"

Katie remembered Ellen.  Ellen had been a regular at the restaurant for a number of years.  When Ellen got laid off from her teaching job, Katie had hired her to babysit the boys on weekends so that she could work the bar. Ellen had been quiet, and pleasant, and had a teaching degree but no teaching job.  Her spur of the moment decision made out of a mixture of desperate need and innate kindness had turned out to be a very wise move.  Ellen had become a good friend and an honorary member of the family.  One day she had announced that she was moving across the country.  The boys had been devastated.  Katie had been furious that she was leaving on such short notice.  She had not heard from Ellen since.

She changed the channel from the cooking show she had been watching to one of the news channels.  They were talking about the war.  She pointed the remote at the screen, and Andrew said, "No, Mom!  Please leave it."

"What's going on that she's on the national news, then?"

"She's a hostage at a school, Mom.  Someone took her hostage at a basketball game.  She's in trouble!"

Katie sighed.  Andrew had always been a little slow in his thought.  This was made up for with the speed of his emotions.  The oldest of the two boys, she had not realized that there was a problem until Mark, the younger one, had started meeting milestones that his older brother had not yet accomplished.  Mark was a bit more than a year younger, and a year behind in school.  Mark had learned to ride a bike first, to swim first, and to read first.  As the boys got older, Andrew began to realize that this was not the way it should be.  At 18 and 17, the boys barely spoke.  Mark harbored anger for the years of temper-tantrums and out of control behavior that had taken so much of the family's attention away from him.  Andrew was still jealous of the fact that Mark was normal.  Andrew was in special education classes at the high school, and would be graduating this  year.  He wanted to go to college.  She wasn't sure he could handle it.

Andrew stared at the television screen and waited for the story to come back on.  He remembered Ellen well.  He had been so angry when she left.  She had been the only person in the world who had been able to deal with his tantrums.  No matter what he did, she wouldn't let him hurt himself, and she wouldn't cave in.  In his world, this mattered.  When she was with him, he had fewer tantrums and felt less out of control.  He had felt safe with her.  

He remembered being six.  He was in the first grade and doing poorly.  He couldn't hold his pencil correctly.  He couldn't figure out how the letters on the paper were supposed to make words when they jumped around all the time.  No one in his class would play with him at recess.  He was too aggressive with both his words and his actions, and his eye and hair made him look strange to them.  He was routinely shunned, even though he kept trying to be part of the group.  His teacher was annoyed with him most of the time.  His mom was annoyed with the teacher most of the time, because she always had to go to school for meetings.  His step-dad thought that a kick in the behind was a good way to fix things.  Ellen had sat down with his mother one afternoon for a long time.  She had been the one to convince Mom that the "happy" pills were probably a good idea.  His life had gotten much better once he had gone on the medication.  His moods stabilized, he was able to focus better in class, and his aggression was held in check.

One night, while Ellen was tucking him in, he got brave enough to ask her, "Why did God make me funny?"  Ellen looked at him, puzzled.

"Why did God make you funny?  Do you mean why do people laugh at you?"

"No.  Grandma said that I'm a bad boy because God made me funny."

Ellen looked very angry.  He got a little afraid, and drew back onto the bed.

"Oh, baby, I'm not mad at you.  I'm angry that someone would think that God would make anyone 'funny,' because God makes everyone exactly the way he wants to."

"So God made me this way because he wanted me to be this way?"

Ellen tried to hide her feelings.  She was more than a little annoyed at a God who would make such a beautiful child suffer so much.  She shared too much differentness with Andrew, and understood how painful his life was becoming for him.

"God made you the way you were supposed to be.  He didn't make you wrong, he made you different.  Different people are important to have in this world, Andrew.  If we were all the same, nothing would ever change.  Nothing would ever get better.  It would be very boring if we were all the same.  God made you YOU, and the only thing you need to worry about is becoming the best YOU that you can be.  That's hard work, Andrew, becoming the best you, but I know you can do it."

Andrew snuggled under the covers and thought about this.  He thought about the things he was good at.  He thought about the things he wanted to do better.  He thought that if he worked hard, he could do it.

Twelve years later, he sat on the couch in the living room and waited to see her picture again.  She looked pretty much the same as she had when he was six.  He wanted her to know that he was going to be graduating from high school this spring.  He wanted her to know that he had a job and he was good at it.  He wanted her to know that he had a girlfriend, and that he was going to the prom.  He wanted her to know that he had decided that he wanted to work with little kids, and that he had talked to his guidance counselor and was going to go to college for Early Childhood Education.  He wanted her to know all of these things, because she had been the only person in his life that had not believed that God made him funny.

His mother was getting annoyed at having to watch news about the war.  "Andrew, I want to watch my show.  Go watch in your room."

Andrew picked up his backpack and walked slowly to his room.  He took out the community college catalogue and it's well worn cover automatically opened to the pages for the program he wanted to attend.  He took out his homework and put it on the desk.  He turned on the television on his nightstand, changed the channel to the news, and started his homework.  Then he stopped to pray.


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What if the best me I can be isn't good enough?
Oh, it IS good enough. Always. It doesn't matter what anyone else believes, as long as WE know we are good enough.

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