To the kid with cancer of the bones. Who is up late tonight because his meds won’t let him sleep. To his mother, who is beside him, rubbing his tummy.
Mothers have been rubbing tummies since the dawn of the man.
To the man who raises palmettos in South Alabama, whose wife passed yesterday morning. The same man who is starting a pecan orchard because it’s what she always wanted.
To the woman who is the janitor for the Baptist church. Who clocks out of her other job to push her cart up and down the halls.
She cleans bathrooms, dusts offices. Who doesn’t get home until eight at night, and still has time to cook her kids a full supper meal before bedtime.
To the nine-year-old girl whose father abused her. Whose life will forever be painted with the badness he left. She is now thirty-three. She got married this morning. Someone emailed me photos of the ordeal.
Once, that same girl said, “I didn’t trust anyone for a long time, it was a big mistake. I’ve wasted a lot of years being scared of good people.”
And to the young man who fell off the roof of a construction site. He broke two ribs. The woman across the street took him to the hospital.
She carried him twelve hours to Texas to be in his mother’s house while he recovered.
“Sometimes,” said that neighbor woman. “A man needs his mother.”
I’m writing this to the Walmart employee who was on a smoke break ten minutes ago. She sat on the sidewalk.
She cried while talking on the cellphone. If I didn’t know any better, it sounded like her boyfriend was breaking up with her.
And to Jason, who just discovered he’s good a basketball player. Who has felt like a failure until now. Who tells me he developed a love of Mel Tillis after a friend sent him several albums in the mail.
“‘Coca-Cola Cowboy’ is, like, one of my favorites songs now,” says Jason.
Mine, too, Jason.
To the young man who drives a truck for a living. Who thought it would be a great line of work, but doesn’t feel that way anymore. Who finds himself far from his kids and his wife. Who spends his nights on the phone and on his computer, keeping in touch.
And to you.
The person who believes you aren’t quite enough. No matter what you do, the feeling is there, beneath the surface. It nags at you like the tag in a new pair of underpants.
You have waited so long to see your ship come in, you’re beginning to think you’re on the wrong dock.
You are sad. You can’t have a baby. Or you’re poor.
Your girlfriend wouldn’t marry you—even after eleven years together. She left you and got married a year later. Then had kids. Three of them.
I know this is late coming, and I know it doesn’t mean much coming from a stranger.
I know it doesn’t take away the ugly parts of life. But I mean it when I say it. And I hope you know that. And I hope you know that these three words are just code. Code for “I love you.” Code for “it’s going to be okay.” Code for “this isn’t the end, not even close.”
God bless you.