He was just sitting there.
On a stump.
Looking away from the people who were working behind him. Looking toward the group of teenagers who filled the field in front of him.
And I won’t ever forget him.
I was driving past a local High School and noticed that the marching band was outside rehearsing their formations and their flag waving protocols. A colorful group of kids, awash in high spirits and bright colors, filled with energy and focus.
Although they didn’t realize it, they were being watched. The teenager across the road, a young migrant worker, was taking a brief respite from the back-breaking work of harvesting crops under a scorching Carolina sun. He was turned toward the dreams he had no hopes of ever achieving, turned away from the sadness that comprised the narrow boundaries of his life.
I only had time for the briefest glimpse; however, I didn’t need a week, a month, or a year to comprehend the look of naked yearning on his face as he watched kids his own age prepare to march into the next football game, the next year of High School, the first year of college, and from there, into a future that was brighter than the blazing sun.
It occurred to me that those marching students probably had no idea how truly blessed they were. Sure, they had loads of homework, dating problems, tough teachers, summer job concerns, and worries about being accepted by their favorite college.
But all of those “problems” actually represented opportunities, opportunities that they didn’t think twice about having.
The boy on the stump. The kids in the field. Teenagers at the same stage of life.
Some of them marching off into the great unknown of unlimited possibilities. One of them turning and trudging back into the not-so-great “known” of every day unfolding exactly like the day before.
That young man represented a sermon on a stump to me.
The sermon said, “Yes, life is complicated and challenging and full of decisions and choices and unexpected turns in the road. But all those decision and choices that make life complicated also represent freedom and opportunity. So stop your bellyaching about how hard life is, because you don’t know the meaning of hard until you’ve sat on a stump and watched your dreams for a different future march away into the distance and all you’re left with is the bleak, sad sameness of a thousand days passing. “
A sermon on a stump.
I will always see it, always hear it, always remember it.
And it will always remind me. I am blessed.