When my brother and I were little, one of our outings was to go to a creek near our house and play with my mom. We had old sneakers we called Creeking Shoes and we would play for hours. Building damns or diverting the water flow for leaf boats by building with the rocks. I was probably fifteen before I realized that all rocks do not contain fossils. Hence, the youth of a river kid. My mother would often (and a bit constantly) recite… well sing “Where go the Boats?” by Robert Louis Stevenson. When my own child was about four, my mom and I took him and he had a blast, building damns and diverting water.
My younger brother passed away recently and his service was this last Sunday. Lot of baggage there to unpack. He lived pretty much in the same town his whole life and the same town I lived in 1st to 12th grade. We were three years apart in school and knew the same people and yet didn’t.
C came up to me during the visitation part and we talked about my brother; she had gone to school with him and I had gone to school with her brother. She was kind, lovely and I thanked her for coming. I spoke at the service and then afterwards she came up to me with tears in her eyes and said, “I have story I always wanted to tell your brother, but I never did.” And her voice caught with regret. I grabbed her hand and said, Oh, he knows and I would love it if you would tell me.
When he was little, he tried out for some ball and stick team (tball? Little league? Something.) but in our town they had tryouts and then the team lists were posted at either a bank or one of the professional buildings. Her mother worked at the front desk and had a direct view of the listings and the kids and parents coming up and looking at the listings. She told her daughter later she had never seen a child so very devastated to not make any of the teams as my little brother when he saw the lists. It broke her heart as he cried and cried. She decided right then that in the town she was from (smaller next town over) would always allow all kids to tried out, to play on and be part of a team. And to this day, that is exactly what happens there.
And out of all the things that were told to me on Sunday and over the past two weeks, that hits the most. His actions 40 years ago changed the path for so many others and he never knew. We never know. We are those rocks in the creek that get moved and change the shift of the flow. When things get big, I often get caught up in thinking I am one person, I cannot do enough to make a difference. But one sobbing kid changed the path for many, because someone cared and was moved by that.
And tell people things, when people do kind things or have made a difference, don’t be afraid to tell them. Face to face or a note in the mail. Or tell their sister, because that means the world at a very difficult time.