I have a drawer filled with little keepsakes and mementos from friends I’ve gained along the way. I have a picture that was drawn of me while standing in front of a roomful of people at one of my empowerment classes.
I have a tie that someone bought for me, which is nothing like anything I would wear but still, I kept this.
I keep things like this because from whichever angle the gifts come from and from whomever remembered me enough to give me something, I see each of these gifts as tiny victories. I keep them because they mean something to me.
I used to have a gum wrapper. And I think I still have this in a box somewhere. I have the wrapper folded exactly as it was because of the young boy that gave this to me.
The boy was mainly non-verbal but he loved to draw. I know this because I saw him on the train while riding home on an evening train. There were certain differences about the boy that would make him visibly noticeable. He was beautiful as ever but challenged to say the least.
Meanwhile, there was a 5-seater nearby with a few young adults that were loud as could be.
Some might have taken notice of the young boy that sat with his family. And I use the word “Sat” in name only. The boy was inquisitive. He was curious. He noticed the 5-seater bench seats which were across from him. To describe the seats on the train, the 5-seater are three seats facing forwards and two seats opposing, facing backwards. The young boy noticed the fact that some of the young men took notice of him.
The boy was not the stillest and the Mom often apologized, to which I explained there was no need. And I meant this too.
I said this because in fairness, had anyone said anything to or about the challenged boy, regardless to their size or how many — with all my heart and all that I had, I would have done whatever was in my power to defend this boy.
After noticing the laughter from the young men in the 5-seater, the boy looked at his mother in a way that only she could understand. I know this because she explained to me.
“This is the face he makes when he wants to draw something.”
She gave him a blank sheet of paper. The Mom gave her son a few markers and something to lean the paper on. And the boy went at it.
He drew everyone that sat in the 5-seater across from him. He drew them in a way that was surprising for a young boy. This was impressive. And after, the young boy climbed out from his seat and then walked over to present the drawing to the loud young men that sat in the 5-seater.
He quieted them in such a powerful way. In fairness, this is one of the most impressive things I had ever seen. The young men stopped their laughter and gave way to humility.
Without even saying a word, this young boy not only changed the ride on the train; he changed the minds of everyone around him.
I was so impressed that I had to look at the boy. He noticed me looking and dug into his bag of art supplies and then reached out to offer me something. I accepted this with thanks — it was an empty wrapper for a stick of gum. The wrapper was in perfect, unwrinkled condition.
He didn’t draw anything for me but still, somehow, the boy instinctively knew.
He handed me the wrapper as if to say, “I noticed you too. Here. Take this.”
The Mom explained, “He likes to give people things.”
I kept the wrapper.
I used to have a woven label that replicated a small 100 dollar bill. This was from my first real job. I can’t say that I enjoyed the job or that I ever made any money at this place. I can only say that I kept this as a sign of my commitment that one day, I would find a successful path for myself.
I have a feather on my desk. I have a few mementos from a concert I went to with a group of my oldest friends. I have my friend Tuffy sitting next to me on my desk. Tuffy is a small Bengal tiger that Mom gave me when I was young and very sick in the hospital.
Tuffy has been around the world and back with me. He is a reminder from my Mother to always know, no matter what, I am tough and above all, I have to always hang in there.
I have some paintings that were given to me and a little birdhouse that was painted like a barn.
I have these things to remind me of the people that have touched my heart because according to them, I have touched theirs.
As of right now, it is 7:50 in the morning. I can hear the rainfall land on the domed skylight above me in my loft. The mountains behind my home are extremely green, and yet, the sky is so incredibly gray.
The wind is light and hardly moving and for now, the heavens soak the Earth and cleanse away our little troubles. This gives us all a good reason to stay home, watch a few movies, and order in some Chinese food.
There is no denying that times are tough. You know it and I know this too. And there is reason to worry. There is cause for alarm and reasons to be upset. There are certainly enough reasons to raise our hands and shout and scream or fight with each other.
I came across something on social media yesterday, which I may or may not have heard before. But yet, there was something about this quote that stood out to me.
“BEING LAZY IS DISRESPECTFUL
TO THE PEOPLE THAT BELIEVE IN YOU“
I thought about this last night. I thought about the ideas we have when we think about quitting.
I thought about our ideas of fair and unfair and how life doesn’t care about our opinions anyway.
I thought about the young boy from that train ride home. I thought about the picture of me that was drawn by someone I’ll name as Richie Tats. I think about these things on a regular basis.
I think about Rich and the list of others that have passed. I think about the people I have seen in my life. I think about the times we quit because the world pushed us too hard.
I think about the families that have been devastated by Covid-19 and the refrigeration trucks that were parked behind the funeral homes near my house.
I think about all the devastation that has occurred over the last several months and the need to rise up. I think about this and I say to myself, “It’s time!”
I think about my doubts and fears and my insecurities and then I wonder to myself, “Who the hell am I?”
I am no better or worse. I am no different.
I have my list of imperfections. I have my list of fears. I have my regrets, shame, and my secrets just like the rest of the world.
I am not sure where our endurance is. I am not sure why people crumble in the face of adversity. I am not sure how or if this is a question of our mental toughness.
Is this because we are soft? Have we all gone crazy? Did we spend too much time looking for pain management? Are we more interested in masking the pain instead of solving the pain itself?
Whatever happened to our fortitude?
What happened to us? Weren’t we supposed to be the toughest and the strongest and the best Country on Earth.
For the record, I still see us this way — I still see us as the greatest country. However, we are not at out greatest.
And me —
Dig it; I’m looking for recovery. I’m looking to overcome. I’m looking to stand up by any means possible because of one crucial point: Giving up is the most disrespectful thing you could do to the people that never gave up on you in the first place.
I want to be like that little boy on the train. I want to be like him because in spite of a mental or emotional challenge; this boy changed the lives of anyone he met. I know this because I have a gum wrapper that proves it.
So don’t quit!
Don’t give up because as long as there is breath in your lungs, there is fight in your heart, which means there is always a chance to make something great.
Oh,and before I forget.
I wish you knew how amazing it was to get that picture from you. I wish we spoke at least once more before you decided to go. It would have been nice to tell you “Thanks,” and let you know how much I cared.
Sleep well, my friend.