Sunset. A high-school graduation. Students in caps and gowns take the football field. I’ve lost my wife in a crowd of parents and teachers.
There’s a woman next to me. She is old, curly white hair. She is missing teeth. Her accent sounds like hard work.
Granny points to the field. “That’s my Robbie,” she tells me. “First in our family to graduate high school. Told him since he was born, ‘You can become anything when you grow up.’”
She is so proud, her buttons are under strain.
The announcer calls Robbie’s name. Granny claps so hard she almost fractures a wrist.
“That’s him,” she says. “Can you see my Robbie?”
A shopping mall—a young woman. Her son is the size of a sixth-grader. She holds him on her hip.
“Will you PLEASE take him, honey?” she says.
Her husband is a skinny man with tattoos. He places the kid in a large stroller. The kid starts bawling.
The man wheels the stroller in circles, making airplane noises.
The kid quits fussing and smiles. He hollers something along the lines of:
The man stops and kisses the kid’s forehead.
“I love you,” he says.
A gas station—a man is walking toward the door. He is wearing basketball shorts and knee-length surgical stockings. There are stitches on his shaved scalp.
A kid out front stabs out a cigarette and opens the door.
When Basketball Shorts shuffles back outside, the young man is waiting. He helps him into his car—a white Ford. He pumps the man’s gas. They talk. They even laugh.
The Ford drives away.
The kid is left, standing at the pump, waving goodbye.
The side of a busy highway—a woman chases a dog along the shoulder. The dog trots away, paying no attention.
“Help,” the frantic woman says. “My dog’s old, he’s deaf. Been chasing him for an hour.”
Two other men hop from stopped vehicles. One man stops oncoming traffic. Another follows the dog into the median with a leash in hand. He catches the animal.
The dog’s name is Bear. He’s sixteen.
Yeah. I know. This world isn’t all rainbows, roses, and ice-cream shops. It’s a hard place to live. People are angrier than they used to be. Money gets harder to come by. So do smiles.
People get offended by the color of your shirt. And in the time it took you to read the last sentence, cancer killed a truckload of innocent folks.
You have every right to lose faith in our world. But don’t.
Look, there’s no reason you should listen to me—I’m a nobody from nowhere, with nary a credential to my hillbilly name.
But before you throw in the towel, you should know that there is more to this place than what’s on the evening news. A lot more. There are things here so majestic they don’t even have words to accompany them.
And if you don’t believe me, you ought to talk to high-school grad, Robbie, sometime.
Because his grandmother is one of those things.