Ryan had a lot on his mind. He was full of ambitions and wanted to accomplish so much in his life. He had just received a job offer and learned that it would double his income. The money would definitely help him but the job was not his passion. Unsure of what his next move would be, he decided to take a walk at his favorite park. As he walked, he discovered a new path. He never noticed the path before; there were no signs and it was not paved but Ryan was curious to where it led so he set out on the path. As he approached a large tree on the path, he saw a shiny medallion at the foot of the tree. He grabbed it and saw that there was an inscription:
The Valley of Integrity
He flipped the medallion over on the other side and there was another inscription; it read:
The Hill of Expectations
Confused, he sat at the foot of the tree and pondered what the words meant. As he continued to examine the medallion, he looked up and noticed a split in the path he was traveling; one way led the traveler down and the other led up. He then, understood. He had to make a choice. Weighing the choice, he wondered if he could somehow take both paths but as he examined the paths, he realized it was impossible. Suddenly, he noticed an old man walking down from the Hill of Expectations. The old man didn’t know anyone else was near and Ryan jumped in front him.
“Excuse me sir, is the path safe?” Ryan questioned.
“Yes, it is but I must warn you, it is a very long path. I had to turn back because I couldn’t reach the end. You can see the end but the further you travel, the farther it seems,” the old man responded.
He turned from Ryan and started his way towards the Valley of Integrity. The valley looked dark and gloomy but the old man looked hopeful.
Ryan pondered a bit, realizing that the old man looked like a reflection of himself; then yelled to the old man, “Why are you so happy to walk into the valley?”
The old man says without turning around, “When I was at the top of the hill I saw where I wanted to be and it was at the bottom of this valley. The higher I got, the clearer I could see that I was not where I needed or wanted to be.”
The old man continues and eventually disappears down the valley, leaving Ryan alone. Everything Ryan could see, pointed up as the way he needed to go but the old man’s words were pulling him down. The Hill of Expectations looked like the path of least resistance, while the Valley of Integrity looked like a complete struggle.
He thought to himself, “I could take the easy way up and wander until I find my way. Or I can decide to take the path of uncertainty down and find my way faster.”
a girl sits in silence
hoping to be seen
by a boy.
Reality awakes her
loneliness displaces her
carving ink onto trees
she is brought to her knees
stroking his ego
he comes and goes
darkness shuts the door.
a girl sits in silence
hoping to be seen
by a boy.
A class sits in silence as they listen to their principal share the chilling news that their algebra teacher had just been shot and killed by the police. Silent tears fall on hollow hearts.
A girl thinks about the time she needed help with an assignment and Mr. Brooks took time after class to help her, but she didn't to say thank you. A boy thinks of the time Mr. Brooks stopped two boys from bullying him because he did have expensive basketball shoes on.
In shock the silence is deafening. The principal sits down overwhelmed. In the midst of sorrow a boy stands up in front of the class and speaks.
"Mr Brooks deserved better. He was a good man. They killed not only a good person they killed a hero. They deserve to die but that is not what Mr. Brooks would want. He would want us to keep fighting for ourselves. To keep beating the odds. To love the unlovable. That is his legacy. That is his message he shared with us every day which we refused to listen to. We refused to do our homework or study for a test. We refused to be kind to each other. We refused to be kind to ourselves. He fought for us because he believe in us. We didn't appreciate it but I do now. I see now in spite of my anger Mr. Brooks love has reached my heart."
Fighting back tears he continues.
Mr. Brooks loved us. Now it is time to love ourselves. We must fight for hope of a better future. We must not let his death end in silence. We must be his voice now. WE must do the work now. All of us have lost someone in this war. We need each other. We need to be heard. We will be heard.
The boy takes a knee as his classmates surround him. In silence their voice shakes heaven.
A nurse, Jill, stands by the bedside of the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. The CEO, John, hired Jill to take care of him when he was diagnosed with cancer. John was a fighter. He never took ‘no’ for an answer and he refused to let this disease stop him from working either. So, he took his meds and hired Jill to make sure he was able to do his work.
John’s job was his life; he had never had time for a wife or children, but as he was confined to his bed, he longed for a family. He had all he could ever imagine. Two houses, a yacht and a garage full of cars, but his possessions were silent. They were empty and could not fill the void of connection. He looked into Jill's eyes and saw a strong woman; one that loved her job. She listened and was very compassionate towards him. He thought about how he would be mean to people like Jill when he was at the top of his game. He would play off of their emotions just to pad his pockets. He thought about all the pain he caused in his life for a profit that could not even get him out of his bed now. No money could defeat the disease that was eating away at him inside. He was dying and he knew it and was afraid that no one would remember him. He was afraid that his work would be forgotten and his life replaced by someone as heartless as he was.
Jill looked at John and saw a broken man; a man that was so strong before but now dependent on another person for help. Jill took his hand and said, "Everything will be alright. You will see." Her smile touched John in places he never felt before. He felt loved. He knew all of his mistakes and the hurt he caused for many, however, in that moment he felt none of it mattered. He was loved in spite of his actions. Tears fell down his face and his lips curled up as he whispered, "Thank you.” A weight lifted off of his shoulders, taking with it, shame and hurt; leaving in its wake, love and peace. He closed his eyes and fell asleep crossing between worlds with the words: everything will be alright, leading the way.
Annabelle is excited. Today is the day she gets to travel to the “big city.” She has dreamt of being a star her whole life. She bought her train ticket and is trying to patiently wait for her train at the station. Annabelle is watching as people of all ages get onto their scheduled trains. She sees their smiles and it makes her even more anxious to get to the “big city.” A small, simple train stops right in front of her; it’s called the Train of Patience. She doesn’t recall needing to board that train so she tells the conductor it’s not her train. Not much longer after, another train comes: the Train of Hope. Annabelle is not looking for hope, she wants fame and fortune, so she tells the conductor, again, that it’s not her train and she continues to wait. As she waits, Annabelle imagines her Train of Fame and Fortune; large, flashy, exciting and nothing like the plain trains she’s seen so far. Four more trains come through, the Train of Love, Determination, Compassion, and Good Will. Each train comes through the station for all who are in need of its destination. Annabelle rejects every single train because she is still waiting for her train of Fame and Fortune. She can’t imagine why people would want to get aboard these small, rusted, boring trains. She has waited long enough for her time to shine; what are a few more hours?
Annabelle sits and daydreams on the bench of expectation about her train. It is plush, comfortable and it serves the finest of foods and beverages. There are dancers, singers, comedians, entertainers and other public figures. She can’t wait; she knows her train is going to be perfect. As Annabelle adjusts her legs to keep them from falling asleep, she notices that she is alone. The once, busy, loud and exciting train station, is now quiet and barren. Everyone had found a train but her. The sun has passed, now giving way to darkness. Annabelle looks at her ticket, broken but still holding out hope that her train will come. Suddenly, she sees a light coming down the train tracks. A loud, majestic horn blows as it approaches the station. She bursts with excitement, the train is getting closer and all she can notice is how breathtaking it looks. It is better than she could have ever imagined. The beautiful train stops in front of her. As she smiles at the conductor, he announces, “This is the final train dear, please board.” Annabelle reads her ticket and she looks at the train’s name. Her heart sinks as the conductor takes her ticket, closes the doors behind her and pulls off. The train leaves the station, taking Annabelle and her dreams to their final destination. The conductor announces, “We hope you had a chance to take advantage of every train that was presented to you. You are now aboard your final train, destination: Death.”
A young couple sits in darkness in their living room. The electricity was turned off today. Despite both of them working, they have been struggling to pay their bills. The money isn’t enough to maintain the lives they chose to live, so, they reflect in the darkness. They can’t watch television or check their social media accounts, nor do they have money to go to a hotel. They are stuck with each other and their thoughts. Alec wanted to blame his wife for their situation. Rachel had maxed out her credit cards shopping with her friends. She was trying to keep up the appearances with them, knowing she knew she didn’t have the means to pay it back. Even still, in her mind, her husband is the one that should have managed their finances better. Her thoughts were on the two expensive cars Alec bought them. Unable to reconcile their thoughts, darkness wins.
As shame begins to rest on both of them, they hear a knock at the door. Alec opens the door but sees no one. When he looks down, he sees a package on the ground. Rachel anxiously waits as he opens it and at the bottom of this package, they find two scented candles and a lighter inside. There is also a fresh baked loaf of bread and water in the package as well. A small note reads: "I saw that your electricity got turned off and I made this package for you. My husband and I have been in your shoes. Years ago, I remember sitting in the darkness of our home, wondering how it got so bad. I wanted to blame my husband until we received a package like the one I am giving you. It is the package of ‘hope.’ When we wanted to give up, the package came and brought us together. We realized we made mistakes but those mistakes didn’t have to define our life. We knew we could make better choices and learn to handle life better. It was put on my heart to give you this package and encourage you. Blessings, Your Neighbor."
Tears filled both of their eyes as they embraced each other and shut the door. In spite of the shame and guilt that was on them, hope found a place in their hearts. They sat together in their living room, now under the warm glow of candles and began getting to know each other once again. As the sun began to shine, the light brightened, not only in their room but in their hearts. Hope had come and changed their lives forever.
Anne sat on her porch, drawing the sky. She was an aspiring artist that had a fascination for nature and most importantly, the sky. She often sat on the porch alone, creating from the inspiration from above. There was nothing more enjoyable to her than drawing. However, her love for it was not admired by the ones she loved. Her mother wanted her to focus on her chores and homework, so Anne would rush and get them done so she could get to her porch. Her father wanted her to be a musician like him, so she took lessons every week to please him. No one saw her as an artist. They liked her drawings but didn’t see a future in it. Despite her lack of support, Anne knew in her heart, no matter the odds, that she was going to be an artist.
A neighbor was walking by one day and saw Anne as she looked up at the sky. The old man was amused by her awe. He had not looked up at the sky like that in a long time, nor seen anyone marvel it the way she did. He remembered that he used to count the stars while lying in the grass as a child. He would dream of traveling the world. His dream actually became his reality as he traveled across the world, meeting wonderful people along the way. He looked at Anne and knew she was different; her joy made him want to dream again. He walked up to her determined to find out more about this girl.
He asked, “What do you see?”
She was startled; no one usually speaks to her when she is drawing. She looked at the old man.
“I see… I see Love. I see beauty. Everyday I sit here, trying to capture the beauty but it escapes me,” she responded.
“May I take a look?” the old man asked, as he noticed her notebook.
She gave him the pad and as he opened it, his eyes widened. He was blown away by her talent. In all of his traveling, he had never seen such beautiful art.
“This is amazing.”
Anne was surprised; she wasn’t used to getting a reaction from anyone.
“Thank you, I am trying to become an artist but I don’t know if I can,” Anne said.
“What do you mean?” the old man replied.
“My parents want me to be someone else. They don’t understand how much I love drawing and they don’t see it in my future,” said Anne.
The old man stopped her, “Young lady, you can’t be anything other than who you are; and you are definitely an artist. You are the greatest artist I have ever seen. Regardless of what others say, you still draw. I can tell, you can’t escape it and I believe in you.”
The words cause tears to fill Anne’s eyes. He noticed her and she felt loved; the feeling was wonderful. The old man was emotional too as his heart was moved by her gift. He pulled out his checkbook, signed a check and handed it to Anne, “This is for you.” He continued, “Promise me one thing; that you will never stop using your gift. Carry this wherever you go; if you ever need it, you can cash it for whatever amount.” The old man remembered a time when he was her age, “Many years ago, I was given a similar check when a gentleman saw my gift of writing. He instructed me to do the same thing and I have traveled the world ever since. I have been writing in many beautiful cities and I still have the check he gave to me; I have not needed it yet.” He said, pulling out the check to show her. “Young lady, the world is yours, now go and discover it.” He turned and walked away, smiling and admiring the sky all the way home.
Anne held the check and a burst of confidence filled her. She put the check in her pocket and decided at that moment, that she was an artist; and the world, her canvas.
A young, single mother of two sits in her car and prays. She is afraid. She fears that she will not be able to feed her kids. She can't take the looks of pity and disgust she receives from family members when she asks for help. Their giving is more harmful to her soul than what she receives in return. She prays but her tears keep her voice silent.
Her eyes open and immediately connect with the two angels in her backseat. She wipe away her tears and she smiles at them. The mother now feels at peace. Her situation has not changed but she has.
Danny loved football. His dad bought him a football for Christmas when he was five years old and he loved the game ever since. Danny took the football everywhere he went. It didn’t matter if he was in the shower or in his bed; his football was right there with him. The only place he could not take it was to school. Danny did not like going to school; the kids there did not like him for some reason. They called him weird and strange, so during recess, he learned to play by himself. He would run around, pretending he had his football in his arms, running for the game winning touchdown. The other kids would always laugh at him but it didn’t bother Danny, he just kept running.
One day, during gym class, the gym teacher gathered the students to play football. The teacher selected two team captains to pick classmates for their teams. The two popular jocks quickly picked the biggest and strongest-looking girls and boys first. One by one, each student rejoiced as their names were called. Finally, Danny was the last person standing. Knowing his inevitable decision, the last captain shook his head and called Danny’s name. Danny was instructed to stand in the back as the other kids moved into position to defend the other team. Carelessly, he ran to the back, eager and focused on playing the game he loved so much. Danny didn’t care that no one wanted to pick him; all he cared about was playing football.
The very first play, the quarterback threw a deep pass down the sidelines. The player covering the wide receiver fell down, leaving Danny as the team’s last line of defense. Danny ran towards the ball that seemed to be floating in the air. The wide receiver misjudged the ball and jumped too early. The ball sailed over him and landed right into the arms of Danny. Danny’s eyes grew big as the other team began to run towards him. He started to remember all of the days he practiced catching the ball and running for touchdowns at recess. Danny took off; he dodged and sprinted past everyone until he reached the end zone where his team comforted and cheered for him.
Danny was never the “popular” one or even seen as valuable but Danny the forgotten pick, now the pick that will never to be forgotten again.