American Kid

He is your typical American kid. Cheery face. Large ears poking beneath a red baseball cap. Freckles. He has a big bandage on his collarbone.

There’s a television in the corner of a breakfast restaurant, it’s broadcasting a political talk-show. The TV hosts are flinging hands at one another, arguing about God-knows-what while I eat eggs.

“Nonononononono,” says the talking head. “Don’t tell ME I’m un-American, sir. YOU’RE un-American…”

In the booth ahead of me: a young boy. Five years old. Six maybe. He orders cheese and scrambled eggs—I know this because he shouts his order. Which draws looks.

Some children’s voices are shrill when they shout. Not his. His sounds like a laugh fit for a playground.

His mother hushes him.

He is your typical American kid. Cheery face. Large ears poking beneath a red baseball cap. Freckles. He has a big bandage on his collarbone.

He coughs. It sounds like a bad cold. He uses his hat to cover his mouth. His head is bald. I see blue veins underneath his pale scalp.

The TV host shouts, “DON’T YOU TELL ME I’M UN-AMERICAN! I’M AS AMERICAN AS…”

The boy asks his mother, “Are you tired, Mom?”

She smiles and nods.

“Are you as hungry as ME?” he says. “NOBODY’S as hungry as me.”

She doesn’t answer. She’s pretty. Young, but weathered. She looks like she’s lived twice the life any of her peers have.

He leans on her shoulder. There is a medical bracelet around his wrist. He tells her he’s sorry for being so sick.

Her face swells. “Don’t you ever say that again,” she says. “You hear me?”

“I’M UN-AMERICAN?! I’M UN-AMERICAN?! YOU’RE UN-AMERICAN! YOU, YOU, YOU…”

The boy asks if he’ll be going back to the emergency room again. “I hate it there,” he adds. “I don’t wanna go back.”

She shakes her head. “I don’t know, Tray. We’ll have to see.”

Tray. It’s a sturdy name. And he must be a strong kid because he has a tough mama. Life for some five-year-olds is carefree. I don’t get the feeling Tray’s is.

“…UN-AMERICAN, UN-AMERICAN, UN-AMERICAN, UN-AMERICAN, UN-AMERICAN, UN-AMERICAN, UN-AMERICAN, UN-AMERICAN…”

Their food arrives. They pray over it. And though I can’t hear what they’re whispering, I say a quiet “amen” along with them.

The boy eats like there’s no tomorrow. She barely touches her omelette.

When they finish, she gathers her things and pays the waitress. He walks toward the restrooms. He doesn’t move too fast.

She waits for him with her eyes shut and eyebrows pinched together. It’s been a long night.

They leave. I watch them through the window. She lifts him into the car. He’s weak.

“NO SIR! I’M SAYING YOU’RE THE MOST UN-AMERICANEST OF UN-AMERICANS…”

Their car exits the parking lot. The waitress finally shuts off the god-forsaken TV. And I’ve lost my appetite. I’m too busy thinking.

Dear Lord:

I know you don’t hear from me as often as either of us would like. But I hope you hear me today.

Please help Tray.

I’m begging you.

17 comments

  1. Brenda Laurence - March 16, 2017 1:58 pm

    Touching and beautiful. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Nancy - March 16, 2017 2:03 pm

    Praying for Tray and his mom and for our country. Thank you for sharing Tray’s story. I’m certain many readers are praying with us.

    Reply
  3. Sandra Marrar - March 16, 2017 2:04 pm

    Amen

    Reply
  4. Kay Keel - March 16, 2017 2:09 pm

    Yes Lord, please help all the “Tray’s”…and their parents!

    Sean, thank you for opening our eyes every day with your God -given special talent. Some days your post makes me cry, some days your post makes me laugh, but EVERY DAY your post is beautiful.

    Reply
    • Kath - March 16, 2017 2:21 pm

      Amen!

      Reply
  5. Pamela Smith - March 16, 2017 2:12 pm

    Amen

    Reply
  6. Linda - March 16, 2017 2:13 pm

    How can anyone reading this not be touched?

    Reply
  7. Mike - March 16, 2017 2:21 pm

    Dear God, please help Tray.

    Reply
  8. Naomi - March 16, 2017 2:29 pm

    God Bless Tray, Jacob, Levi, Jimmy…..the list goes on and on….. and all their Moms and Dads. To understand seems unfathomable to our finite minds how parents and these children are able to go on and to even seem cheerful in the face of such overwhelming illinesses. Without God to lean on in these storms of life, many more would fall under the load.

    Reply
  9. Regina Chandler - March 16, 2017 3:21 pm

    Thank you so much for your heartfelt and loving stories. You write with such feeling from the heart. May God heal Tray.

    Reply
  10. Sam Hunneman - March 16, 2017 3:26 pm

    God bless Tray and keep him, and give his mom strength. And give the rest of us perspective and the wisdom to embrace and stand up for it.

    Reply
  11. Noah - March 16, 2017 3:37 pm

    We would all be better if we turned off the TV sets and did more praying. Just saying’. And I just lifted a prayer for Tray and his Mom too. Lord, I am begging you too to help Tray be able to live the life of a normal young boy.

    Reply
  12. june - March 16, 2017 9:51 pm

    AMEN!

    Reply
  13. Laurie Glenn - March 16, 2017 10:26 pm

    Thank you, Sean, for a daily chance to be still and ponder.

    Reply
  14. Melissa Westberry - March 17, 2017 1:26 pm

    I feel as if I were with you, hearing the noise yet watching the tender scene of mother and child. I pray also that God will help Tray.

    Reply
  15. bob lang - March 17, 2017 2:17 pm

    dang if you don’t make a grown man tear up everyday.

    Reply
  16. Wendy Ramsey - March 17, 2017 2:26 pm

    Praying for Tray….and others.

    Reply

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