Houston. The boy was at a park. A sophomore. He was doing his homework, watching his 5-year-old little sister play on the monkey bars.
She yelled at her brother, “Hey! Look at me!”
She fell from the bars onto her head. Blood was everywhere She was unconscious. The young man panicked.
You’re supposed to be a dutiful big brother. You’re supposed to know what to do. But sometimes you panic.
A man in a janitor uniform came from out of nowhere. He saw the child on the ground. He saw the blood.
The custodian spoke limited English. He scooped up the girl in his arms.
“Don’t worry, leetle girl, it’s gonna be okay.”
Don’t worry? Who was this guy?
Well, whoever he was, he wandered into traffic, flagging for cars to pull over.
He tells the sophomore kid that he is a runner. A competitive runner. He runs every day. His father was a runner. His brothers are competitive runners. He has completed multiple marathons. A few ultras.
So takes the girl in his grasp. He runs to the local hospital. With a 40-pound kid in his arms.
When he arrived in the ER, the nurses asked whether he was all right. He was covered in perspiration. Breathing heavily. All he could say was “Help this leetle girl, help this leetle girl.”
Birmingham. It was raining, and the college girl was stuck in traffic. She had to go to the bathroom, badly. And Highway 280 traffic is not accommodating bladders that are about to redline. It was a jam. Miles of bumpers. Standstill gridlock.
So the woman pulled off at the gas station. She jogged inside, clutching her urethral region.
There was an old man seated out front, he was asking for change. She avoided him on the way in, but couldn’t avoid him on the way out.
He hit her up for cash.
She had no cash. This young woman is a member of the modern generation, they don’t do cash. They carry plastic.
She searched through her purse. All she had was a $100 gift card given to her by her mother for college necessities. She handed him the card and said “Here.”
He tells her thank you. “I haven’t eaten today,” he says. “I was just praying for food when you walked up.” Then he makes the Star Trek sign for “Live long and prosper.”
She sort of looked at him as though he were one taco short of a fiesta. And she bid him goodbye.
Two days later, she pulled into the gas station to fill up her car. She went inside to pay, and the cashier said she had something for her. It was the gift card.
The young woman was confused.
“What’s this for?”
The cashier told her the old man used it to buy himself supper. And supper only. Then he brought the card back. He told the cashier to give the card back to the college girl.
Somewhere outside Atlanta. There was a man walking his two daughters around the neighborhood. This is how he gets their energy out.
He was a widower. His wife had just passed two weeks earlier. That’s when he started taking his girls for walks. Otherwise, they would have driven him nuts.
Kids have too much energy. They had to get it out somehow.
On the walk, he found a cat with a broken leg. The cat was pale white, with green eyes.
Anyone with kids knows what happens when they happen upon a stray.
His children screamed. “We’ll take care of it! We will feed it! We will love it!”
Dad agreed and brought the cat home. They called the cat Vanilla Wafer. Vanilla slept beside dad until his leg got better. But the leg never fully healed. Thus, Vanilla always walked with great difficulty.
And so it was, Dad was never seen without Vanilla. The cat was either in his arms or on his shoulders, or sometimes in a baby carrier, strapped to Dad’s chest.
That was 18 years ago. Last week, the cat went to the eternal litter box in the sky.
“Vanilla brought me back to laugh again,” said Dad. “That cat was my angel. He helped me learn how to feel something again after my wife died.”
I know you feel helpless right now. Whoever you are. Maybe it’s something you’re going through. Maybe you’re just sad. Maybe you are watching television too much. Maybe sometimes you actually believe this world is going to hell in a proverbial hand basket.
Have courage, leetle girl. It’s going to be okay.