Light – a story

“You are the light of the world  … let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:14-16 

A goldfinch watched Harold with little interest from it’s perch in the middle of the bare forsythia bush in the front yard. Harold was violating his self-imposed and oft broken “no shoveling in March rule” by clearing from the end of his driveway, what he hoped would be the last three inches of snow for the season. It was another gray Michigan Saturday. It seemed like weeks since he had seen blue sky and sunshine.

“Even a crummy day like today is a break from school, though,” mused Harold, thinking about the daily rigors of teaching fifth graders and the mountain of uncorrected math papers accumulated on his desk.

As Harold bent down to push another scoop of snow to the edge of the driveway, he heard the roar of the neighbor’s muffler less wreck coming down the street. He looked up just in time to dodge a glob of slush heading in his direction.  The at-least-twenty-year-old Ford something-or-other, crammed with four kids, their mother, and a week’s worth of groceries, squished down the street, past the end of Harold’s partially cleared driveway.  Harold gave a half-hearted wave as the tired old car and cargo turned into the driveway across the street.  A little girl returned the greeting with her black hair, nose and tongue plastered against the fogged window.

Harold remembered seeing the black haired child and her siblings playing around the neighborhood – in their yard, in the street and in neighbor Harriet’s perfect perennial garden.  Two were in diapers and two in dirty shorts, one day as they ran through Harriet’s sprinkler, muddying up her perfect lawn.  However, he hadn’t really met the family – formally that is – and he didn’t know too much about them.

He recalled a ruckus coming from their house one warm evening last fall.  The sound of kids screaming and a bellowing male voice rolled through Harold’s open bedroom window and woke him up.  He remembered a woman’s voice, more than holding her own against the verbal onslaught.  The city police made a midnight visit, probably at the request of next-door neighbor Harriet, the eyes and ears of the neighborhood.

Things had seemed pretty peaceful since then, but hard telling what goes on inside their house.  The teacher in Harold wondered how the older kids got along in school.  His thoughts then wandered to his own fifth graders.  He wondered what it was like when they went home from school.  How many of their worlds are like a Michigan winter – cloudy, dark and gray?

“It’s probably none of my business, anyway,” he speculated.  He flipped the snow on the end of the shovel into the snow pile.  “I’m only their teacher …  Can’t be father and mother as well, can I?”

The question was interrupted by a compact yellow mass of feathers barreling toward the back yard.  Harold smiled.  The goldfinch fledged in some of its new, sunshine yellow feathers, zoomed by, then headed for the feeder Harold kept in the back by the kitchen window.  The small splash of brightness lifted Harold’s spirits, as he tossed his last load of March mush on the pile of dirty snow.

Harold’s wondered again about the kids in the Ford and his own students.  “Do they have any bright spots in their lives…?” Something about being the light of the world flickered through Harold’s mind as he put away the snow shovel.  The flashy finch continued feeding as the cold, gray Michigan clouds opened to release new spring rain.

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