Vivian put the SUV in park and sat quietly. She didn’t have the strength nor the heart to open the door. She’d dropped the two younger kids off at school and made her way to the hospital where she worked part time. She understood their circumstances were no secret, but oh how she dreaded facing her new reality. There’d be well meaning words and unsolicited advice, but mostly, there would be awkward silence and looks of pity. She didn’t blame them, what do you say to someone whose life just fell apart? She unbuckled her seat belt and reached for her purse. “Please go before me, Lord,” she’d been talking to Him more these days. The words seemed to get lost in the empty vehicle. Vivian looked out over the parking lot, she was so thankful for the sun and blue skies on this day when her heart felt like storm clouds. Feeling the warmth on her face as she walked from the SUV to the hospital entrance lifted her spirits a little, but then it was time. She stood facing the glass revolving door and wondered if she should just retreat and try again tomorrow. “I am yours and you are mine.” The words caught her off guard and she pivoted around to see who’d said them. There were strangers going in and out but no one was looking her way or seemed to notice her. “So weird,” she whispered as she shook her head, trying to clear her mind. Then she realized, it was the Lord; it had to be. The tune of an old hymn began to bubble up like a spring into her soul; she’d loved it since she could remember. Blessed Assurance. She hadn’t thought of that hymn in so many years, yet here it was precisely when she needed it.
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine oh what a foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation, purchase of God, I’m born of his Spirit and washed in His blood.
And then, with more courage than she felt, she took the next step.
The moment she walked in, the stares of her coworkers began. She smiled at a few but mostly kept her head down as she walked the tiled hallway to the employee lounge. She opened her locker and shoved her purse into the narrow opening and then stood motionless, unable to move. Her heart was so heavy and the world felt cold and uncaring. “Where are your people, Lord? The ones who love you and reach out to people who are devastated, like me?” The question was spoken in a whisper and entirely rhetorical; she really didn’t expect an answer. “Sorry, friend.” Vivian was startled, she turned to face her best friend, Abigail. “I can’t believe this is happening, Abby, I feel so ashamed and lost in all of this.” Tears began to roll down her cheeks. Abigail took Vivian’s hand and squeezed but remained silent; she understood that words were futile. Finally she spoke, “can you meet me in the cafeteria for lunch?” Vivian shook her head as she took a Kleenex from her pocket and blew her nose. “See you then,” Abigail gave her a quick hug then slipped from the lounge and back to work. What a dear friend, Vivian thought, as she closed the locker door and looked around the room. She had never been more thankful to see empty chairs in all her life.
Trevor pulled into the parking lot of the high school and turned off the ignition. Tatum and Trace sat quietly, understanding what came next. “Ignore the comments,” Trevor spoke to his younger siblings. “The best way to make this go away is to ignore and move on.” Tatum, a sixteen year old beauty, spoke first. “I wish we could’ve stayed home today.” “Me too,” Trace agreed. “It’s almost summer, why couldn’t this have happened two weeks from now?” Trevor remained quiet, nothing he could say was going to make this any easier. The three piled from the truck and walked together into the school building. Vivian had prayed so hard for them that morning, prayed they wouldn’t be bullied or made fun of for things they had nothing to do with. And, thankfully, God answered that prayer. Only a couple of people mentioned it; Tatum and Trace had followed Trevor’s advice and kept quiet. So far, his strategy was working.
Timothy straightened the books that lined the library shelf. He had been a student volunteer in the middle school library since he could remember. Books were like friends to him. He met new “people,” travelled to new places and found respite from the world around him; he’d never felt like he fit in. His brothers and sisters were all athletic and popular. He, on the other hand preferred to be invisible and hated anything that made him sweat. Today was especially hard because, despite his best efforts, he couldn’t go unnoticed. The Librarian had come to find him first thing. He was somewhere between L and M putting books away when she rounded the corner and made her way down the aisle. “Hi Timothy, how are you today?” Timothy pushed his glasses up on his nose, grabbed another book and placed it on the shelf. “I’m fine,” he spoke without looking. “Ah, I see.” She spoke but didn’t turn to leave. I don’t want to talk about it! Timothy was yelling in his head, but said nothing out loud. An awkward silence followed; even for the library it felt awkward. “Well, if you need anything at all, I am available. Just come by my office and we can chat,” the Librarian turned and walked away the same way she’d come. Fat chance, Timothy thought, but responded softly with, “Thank you.” He wasn’t thankful though, he wasn’t thankful for anything that had happened lately. How could he be?
Timothy waited until the Librarian was around the corner out of sight before he let his arms fall by his side. He stared down at the cheap brown carpet and wondered why all of this had happened. He loved his dad, but he was so angry he wanted to sit in the floor and cry. How could he make all of their lives this hard?? Didn’t he love his family? And, if the answer was yes, why didn’t he love them enough to spare them all of this embarrassment? The questions made Timothy’s mind spin and he felt sick. He couldn’t wait for the day to be over so he could climb into the treehouse, which was perched on a limb right outside his bedroom window, and get lost in a good book. Escape was the best way to handle all of this, or not handle it, he wasn’t sure which. All he knew was life had suddenly gotten really bad and he wanted everything to go back to the way it was before. He shoved the book he was holding onto the shelf a little too hard and several books fell off on the other side. “Shhhh!” He heard from across the library. He sighed and rolled his eyes as he walked around the large bookcase to put away the books that had fallen. The day couldn’t end soon enough.
Thatcher sat quietly in the office holding an ice pack to his left eye. He knew his mom would be so disappointed, but he couldn’t help himself, that kid shouldn’t have said those mean things about his dad. This was the first time Thatcher had ever been in trouble at school. Other than the occasional demerit for talking, he was a star student. Honestly, Vivian was the least worried about him because he seemed to be taking it pretty well. Looking back, she realized he was just trying to make everyone else happy, even at the expense of his own feelings. Vivian thought about all of this as she headed to the school to pick him up; a day of suspension was the punishment for the crime of a mean left hook to a kid with an even meaner mouth. She wasn’t mad at Thatcher although she didn’t condone violence. But, she was disappointed in the way he’d chosen to handle himself in the situation. “I couldn’t help it, Momma,” he spoke with conviction as he buckled into the SUV, his voice high pitched, desperate for her to understand. “He was saying some really mean things; things that aren’t true. He said Daddy stole money, and that Daddy was a loser. I told him he was a liar and he better shut up, but he didn’t; so, I had to do it, Momma, I didn’t have a choice.” Vivian remained silent as they drove. Thatcher continued to plead his case, but Vivian could only regret that she hadn’t told him the whole story. She’d incorrectly assumed that fifth graders wouldn’t be up to date on local news stories. “Momma!” Thatcher’s voice shook her from the thoughts, “It’s not true, right? None of it. It’s all lies. Right?” She wanted to tell him the whole thing was a terribly untrue and Daddy would be home from work tonight to throw the football in the back yard. But, that wasn’t true. Somehow, she had to find a way to tell her sunny little boy that the bully had been right; his Daddy was a thief.