A Lesson from an Inchworm

I’m contemplating making a major lifestyle change that would mean giving up a perfectly good job for one with no guaranteed income: writing. Thinking about it consumes my every waking moment. I’m worried that if I make the wrong decision, my family will suffer. On the other hand, I’m certain my passion to write is God-inspired, and was intended for more than a hobby.

As I ponder, one particular memory keeps running through my mind of the inchworinch_wormm we saw at the bus stop before school let out for the summer. It was a minor event, but it won’t let me go, because as part of my morning prayer that day, I had asked God to give me eyes to see him.

My son and I were early to the bus stop, for a change. In the morning stillness, we sat in the car chatting and watching the trees sway with the breeze. He saw it first, hovering in front of our car. It took my ancient eyes a bit longer to focus. There was nothing unusual about him—you know—a tiny green critter about an inch long. He was creeping up a gossamer thin strand of silk toward some luscious-looking (to him anyway, I suppose) green leaves.

“He’s doomed,” my son said, with that teenagers-know-everything voice of authority. “Some kid is gonna come flying past and knock him down.”

So we watched. One-by-one, children would arrive and join the group waiting beneath the tree. The young boys, all laid back and cool, would saunter casually onto the scene. The girls, a bit more animated, raced in with a spring in their step, shrieking enthusiastic greetings at friends they hadn’t seen since…well, the day before.

Still he climbed, despite the blustering wind, and oblivious to the increasing activity, which occasionally stirred up gusts so strong they sent the silk strand nearly horizontal. He focused on those leaves above, intent on reaching the goal, and climbed. Inch-by-inch.

My son said good-bye and left the car, stationing himself near the inchworm as a buffer against the children dashing past. He hung back, even after the bus came roaring onto the scene. The inchworm was nearly six-feet in the air by then, within about three feet from the branch. My son took one last look around before turning to give me a victorious thumbs-up before bounding aboard.

I waited until long after the bus took off, watching this precious critter and thinking about his lot. Eventually, he made it to the branches, but what if he hadn’t?  I’m relatively certain he would have started over again. And again, if need be. Because that’s what he was made to do. It’s his purpose.

So what’s my point? That we all have a purpose—something that makes us feel exactly right when we’re doing it. A gift, a talent, a unique capability. Some of us employ that gift, and some make it a hobby, while others stuff it away until “some day.”

My purpose is to write. I’ve tried many times to kick start a writing career, but I’ve been buffeted by life’s winds, and occasionally knocked to the ground. Today, however, I can see that branch within reach. I know I’m supposed to inch forward. If that little ol’ caterpillar can do it, so can I.

So, it is with great excitement, and hope, and fear, that I make this announcement: Yesterday I sent my first story to a publisher, and next weekend I’m embarking on a new adventure that I hope will turn into a book. I will get there, inch by inch.

Mr. Bobby: Shepherd on Wheels

Take the bus or stop for sugar? Tough choice.

Take the bus or stop for sugar? Tough choice.

Every school day for three years. Let’s see, that’s more than 540 school days…minus Fridays, of course, because Friday is Donut Day. That’s approximately 400 mornings I’ve just handed my middle schooler over to Mr. Bobby, the bus driver. Don’t know you at all, Sir, but what the hey, here’s my kid. And on more than 500 afternoons Mr. Bobby brought him safely home.

Every day, I watch him from my car as the children climb aboard. He is an older gentleman, with a kind face and a welcoming smile. He’s punctual. And that’s about all I know about him, even after three years. I’ve spoken to him twice, on afterschool occasions when my son forgot he was being picked up. Mr. Bobby knew which boy was mine and was already kicking him off the bus when I got to the door. Always with a smile.

…well, maybe not 400 mornings…I also drive him to school whenever there’s a bulky project to deliver.  I, er.., my son works hard on those things and it’d be a shame to see them get trampled. But that’s it. The rest of the days he rides…

About 25 children board at our stop, which is at a Boys and Girls Club at the far end of a large commuter lot. Some give him “high fives” and fist bumps as they climb up. Most just walk by, chattering about whatever it is teenagers find interesting. Then he closes the doors, drives about 40 feet, and parks at the edge of the lot.

“What does he do that for?” I’ve asked my teenager more than once. And in typical teenager fashion, he replies, “Dunno. I think he just likes to make us wait.”

although some days, if my son has a major test to take, we’ll drive in so I can quiz him one more time—it’s my last-ditch effort to cram one more answer into that teenage brain…

The kids love him. I know this. There was a period of two or three weeks when he didn’t show, and although a perfectly capable substitute ran his route, it wasn’t the same. My son was so concerned I finally contacted the dispatcher to ask if Mr. Bobby was ok. She assured me he was coming back, and said he’d been ill but was feeling much better. If it had been up to him he’d have returned earlier, but she made him wait until he was completely well. Every morning during that time, the children started speculating the moment the bus pulled into the lot.

“Could be him. I don’t know…”

Then, as the bus rounded that last corner, someone would sigh, “Nope, no hat. It’s another substitute.”  They’d board quietly. Substitute drivers didn’t wait around. As soon as the doors closed, the bus took off.

Mr. Bobby’s return was a joyous occasion. The children clapped and cheered, and EVERY ONE of them gave him a welcome back fist bump.

Fine, yes, every once in a while I just plain can’t get moving in the morning. Those days we have to drive in.

One morning, when I was following the bus out of the lot, Mr. Bobby swung that thing around and circled the lot again. I asked my son about it that evening and he said someone had missed the bus so they went around to pick him up.

Yesterday, I was signing my son in (bulky project) at the school’s front desk, and there was Mr. Bobby, making a pit-stop between runs. He called my son by name, let out a booming laugh, and said, “Where were you this morning? I waited for you!”

Then it hit me. After three years. With only two days left of the school year. Mr. Bobby pulls up to wait. Just in case. He knows his sheep. He cares for them. All those times I didn’t show up…he waited.

So, Mr. Bobby, today I dedicate my page to you, and I count you as one of the million points of light in this world. A good and faithful servant. Thank you for being such a positive influence in the lives of our children, and for keeping them safe. Next year’s high school driver has big shoes to fill. I think I owe you some donuts.

A Woman of Mystery

Stealing a furtive glance

Playin’ it cool

With three hours to kill before it’s time to pick up my teenager from a party, I could drive home and back, but that would eat up an hour. Instead, I pull out my writing bag, an oversized tote into which I could probably cram a Volkswagon if it wasn’t already filled with pens, notebooks, reference cards and other writing tools.
I head to Panera’s, where there is always a quiet corner.
Ahead of me in line is a woman pulling a suitcase on wheels with a large purse perched upon it. Unusual to see a suitcase here; we’re as far from any train or bus depot as we could be. Ever on the lookout for interesting characters for my writing, I watch for clues as she places her order and rolls her luggage noisily around the corner. What’s her story? She doesn’t appear to be homeless; she’s nicely dressed and she paid for her sandwich with a credit card.
I purchase my salad and head around the corner, where she is sitting in my favorite spot. Drat. I grab the second-best seat and dig through my giant sack for a book, which I pretend to read while I give her the once-over.
She’s about my age, and she is also reading. I stare at the suitcase, which is on the chair beside her. We are near the interstate…perhaps she’s hitch-hiking up the coast, and her most recent ride dropped her off here before heading west. No, that won’t do. Nobody hitchhikes these days.
I reach back into my bag of tricks and swap the book for a notepad. May as well record my observances. Neat brown hair, just enough makeup. Hmmm. She’s also writing. I’ll bet it’s a note to her husband, telling him what a cad he is and saying she can’t take it anymore. No, that doesn’t work either. The suitcase is too small for a life-changing escape. Besides, she wouldn’t bring it into the restaurant, would she? Perhaps it’s something too valuable to leave in the car? Perhaps it’s full of something that would melt. Like chocolate. I perk up. This woman just might be my new best friend.
She catches my stare and returns it. I feel my face flush. Have I been found out? Sheepish now, I return to my note-taking. Ice blue eyes. Questioning expression.
The heck with notes. She’s going straight into my blog. I open the bag again, this time to pull out my laptop and begin typing away. In my periphery, I notice she is rummaging in the suitcase. Pull something out already! The suspense is making me nuts.
Out comes a computer. For Pete’s sake, it’s not a suitcase at all, but an extra large briefcase. A fancy one though. I’m momentarily envious. One day I’ll work from a cool portable office like that. What a let-down. I can’t build a character around that. Too ordinary.
Still, when she gets up to refill her drink, I quickly grab my own cup and rise as well, just so I can walk by her screen. Trying to appear casual, I glance down for an eyeful. I know, it’s not nice, but curiosity has me in its grip.
She’s coming back, but I saw enough. I get my drink and sit back down to finish my writing. Today’s blog is about a woman who came to Panera for some quiet time and ends up writing about a mysterious woman sitting near her. A woman who must have an interesting story. Who may or may not be homeless. A woman who appears to be carrying all her worldly possessions in an enormous tote bag.