There is a boy who comes from a battered home. Of days of despair and cutting words, and nights of closed fists and forgotten hearts. There was never any light in the rooms, only cold, empty shadows. He and his sister were small and skinny, straight faced and unseeing with their eyes as they watched the world without expression. But they were curious, and questions hung in the silent air as they fell into a dreamless sleep.
As he grew, he ran in crowds heading for trouble. Long, careless smirks held faces fierce, the louder ones threatening rebellion in menacing ways. Still the boy was quiet, and there was a softness about him that gave me hope in the silent core of my heart for him. I drove past him standing at the foot of his driveway and I would look at him and wave. He watched me with serious gaze, and on occasion, when the sun was just right, I’d catch a glint of life beneath the earth-soiled lens of his stare.
Now he is older, limbs longer, eyes wider. But he is still so young, still coming into a confidence he’s never known. His mother says it’s his fault his father’s hand is glued to the bottle, his fault because he isn’t worth much and is always dragging the family behind. But the boy has posters on his wall of cars and he likes to work with his hands, bringing machines to life that once only sputtered, gasping for breath. But the boy dares to stick his neck into dark spaces, craning for light. He is still quiet, he is still sweet. Kind. A gentle, thoughtful heart. I once stopped to pick up the mail he spilled prying it from the mailbox and an hour later a hand written note with slanted letters sat on my porch, along with a bag of my favorite candy.
That boy has potential. He is on the cusp of something special and his circumstances, try as they do, will not beat him down. It’s a dreary, listless home he cannot shake, but the boy has a gentle heart and braves the frozen air of this winter life he lives.
He is shoveling the snow across the street for his neighbors. They didn’t ask. He simply walked over, shovel in hand, and started moving the heavy snow from the sidewalk. One scrape of the shovel at a time, he is clearing away a path to make it safe to walk. So they don’t slip, so they don’t fall and break themselves.
He moves the shovel with wiry arms, beads of breath puffing from his lips out into the afternoon. Silhouettes move against the windows of his house, watching, waiting to dampen his spirits with another reason how he has falsely failed. But the woman watching from the other side of the street smiles, wraps her scarf closer to her skin and places a plate of peanut butter cookies in his hands, eyes reading into him and smile speaking everything the boy longs to hear. She, too, understands the power light holds over dark.