There was not much room.
There never is, when 3 adults are squished across the bench seat of an S-10 pick-up truck, but he and a friend needed a ride to the airport and I volunteered.
He had spent the last month of his summer at the camp where I worked, serving junior high kids by picking up their trash, painting fences in the California heat, and fixing broken things. Not glorious by anyone’s standards, but he volunteered.
Did you have a good month? I asked.
I did, he answered indifferently. It was something to do.
But not magical, your saying?
No. Not magical.
What will you do when you get home?
Take out the trash, paint my mom’s fence, fix broken things. You know, whatever needs done.
Ah. So, this was a lot like regular life for you?
No literal Come To Jesus Moment in your small group or quiet times?
No new, life-long friends?
No camp romance?
I grinned. He was not like 99% of the students that spent their summer with us. Not inside, not outside. But, he was honest.
I did like the plants, though.
What do you mean?
I like how here in California the plants look for the sun. That doesn’t happen where I’m from.
I don’t follow.
Well, we’d be up early, you know? Before everyone else. And we’d empty the trash cans and throw the bags on the truck before breakfast, usually still in the dark. I was always picking wrappers out of the hillside by the kitchen where people would throw their candy wrappers down or miss the can… and they’d land in the weeds and flowers that climb the back hill. In the dark, the flowers were closed. Still. Waiting. Resting. Staying out of trouble.
By the time breakfast started, the sun would peek out over the valley, and the flowers would start to slowly open and look up, You live here. Ever noticed that?
I can’t say that I have. I’m at work by then, inside.
Yeah. I hear you. It’s super weird. The flowers- they were, like, waiting to come alive. Saving energy until the sun came out each day. And then, when it did, they all opened up and faced straight up- soaking up as much as they could. I dunno. It was cool. They seek the sun.
It was the most I’d ever heard him speak, and, admittedly, more insight than I had bargained for from such a tough kid.
So, what do you think about those sun-seekers?
I think they’re on to something. It’s hard to grow in the dark, you know? Don’t waste your energy. Wait for the sun. I guess I never thought about it before.
He shrugged, and I exited for the airport.
I wonder where he is now. I wonder if he ever found the Light. I wonder if he could ever possibly realize how often I’ve thought about that 5-minute conversation in the past 12 years.
Maybe we didn’t change his life.
Maybe he changed mine.
It’s hard to grow in the dark.
Wait for the sun.
When it appears- and, it always appears,- soak in as much as possible.
When it’s dark, rest.
Rest and wait.
God bless the 1% that blur the lines between lost and found, little red trucks that haul the Gospel around, and errands that deliver you into the sun.