This week’s Thursday Writing Challenge was To Stumble & Fall As one who made the challenge I should have posted a response to the Challenge last Thursday but for a number of reasons I have become behind the last five days or so. My “To Do List’ has grown exponentially. My response to this last Thursday’s challenge though overdue is finally off of my “To Do List.” My hope is that it was worth the wait.
James is very athletic. He did well enough academically to get by. He was awarded a football scholarship to get him through college. He met a fine lady named Mari who was as athletic as he was. Like Jay she did well enough in school to get by. She was awarded a scholarship for softball. He worked as a mid level business manager until he retired thirty years after he began his first day of work. Mari ran a successful home business specializing in cookware. They had two children who were a lot like them.
James and Mari worked out and kept physically fit through most of their lives. To so many looking on it seemed as if they lead charmed lives. They rarely stumbled or fell and did not understand people who did. Their lack of understanding and compassion kept them from offering help to those who needed help. James and his family thought that stumbling and falling was a sign of weakness. No one in his family had a lot of time or patience for weakness.
James has a cousin named Charles. He isn’t very athletic or very smart. He was smart enough to get through high school, barely. He has stumbled and fallen a lot for so much of his life. As a toddler he could be seen stumbling over every tree root, uneven sidewalk and rough spots anywhere he walked. He was sick and hurt a lot. He spent days wearing casts of all different sizes and colors. He had so many unfortunate accidents that injured himself and damaged his possessions that the kids at school nicknamed him Lucky.
James and his family don’t care much for Charles and his family. They will not attend any family gatherings that Charles and his family are at, almost never acknowledge them on the rare times when they see them in town and barely admit that they are related.
People were always helping James. He never even needed to ask for help, he was just offered it whenever he needed it. Help came to Charles so readily because Charles had always been so grateful for whatever help he received. Those who helped Charles came away with the feeling that he had helped them more than they had helped Charles.
After high school Charles found a job in a grocery store in town and was quite good at his job even when he was wearing a cast or when he had to use a crutch which was fairly frequently. Charles married a girl named Denise who was a lot like him. She went to his high school two years behind him. After high school she worked at the “Egg & I” restaurant where they served breakfast all day. She stumbled and fell a lot but didn’t hurt herself quite as badly as Charles did. She was sick more than Charles was and seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time more but in spite of all that she had as kind a heart as her husband.
People liked to help Denise for the same reason that they liked to help Charles. They were as loved by their community as much as any two people could ever be loved. They raised two children who were a lot like them and grew up stumbling and falling like their parents. They also learned by example to reach out to those who stumbled and fell. Charles and Denise never forgot what it was like to stumble and fall, they did it so often. They understood the need for help and had compassion for those who stumbled and fell. For them almost without thinking they reached out to help others even as they were helped by so many.
For both couples the years of their lives flew by. Their youth passed as a blur. Their young family grew up and left home before Charles and Denise were were ready for them to and almost before James and Mari knew that their children had gone. Their middle years moved along as quickly as their youth did. Although both couples looked forward to retirement neither couple thought that their last days at work would come as quickly as it did. There came a day when none of the four could deny that they were old any longer.
Even for James and Mari but for Charles and Denise as well,old age was heralded by aches and pains that they hadn’t felt before or at least as severe. Their hearing and vision wasn’t as good as it was when they were younger and the acuity of both hearing and vision for all four of them was decreasing. James, Mari, Charles and Denise had active lives in their post retirement years but they weren’t able to do as much as they used to do. Stumbling and falling was also part of old age for all of them.
For Charles and Denise stumbling and falling had been part of their lives almost from the beginning so very little had changed. They would stumble fall and pick themselves back up. More often than not they needed help from kind people around them. Charles and Denise seemed to always be surrounded by people wanting to help, neighbors, friends and even strangers. As much as they were loved in their youth they were even more loved in their old age.
Although Charles and Denise’s children and grandchildren stumbled and fell a lot themselves, like their parents and grandparents they understood the need for help and had compassion for those who stumbled and fell. For them thanks to Charles and Denise there was a tradition of reaching out to helping others even as they are helped by so many. They especially loved to help their parents and grandparents.
Until James and Mari had reached old age they hardly ever experienced stumbling and falling. When they reached old age they stumbled and fell more and more often. Since they had never understood people who fell and had never developed compassion for those who did James and Mari did not know how to ask for help. The few times it was offered they did not know how to accept it graciously, thankfully and kindly.
Their children rarely visited them because their children and grandchildren thought that stumbling and falling was a sign of weakness. None of them had a lot of time or patience for weakness. It was a good thing that James and Mari had accumulated a lot of money because whenever they needed help after stumbling and falling they had to pay for it.
It has been noted that the struggle to escape the egg makes the chick stronger and that a rose cannot be opened from the outside because beauty comes from the struggle. Knowing when help is needed, how to ask for it and how to graciously accept it is not a sign of weakness at all but rather it is a sign of true strength. May we not be afraid to stumble and fall but let us all be afraid of not knowing how to ask for help.