This story is for Schuyler Vogel, one of the finest educators I know.
Once there was and once there was not a town on the edge of the swamp in the sultry summer weather of far south Florida, between the alligators and the ocean. In this town there were two amazing friends, Sam and Joseph. They were a lot alike. They liked the same foods. They liked the same books. They liked the same movies and music and games. They even liked the same class in school. Yes, they liked math, if you can believe such a thing.
But two weeks into summer vacation, Sam and Joseph were bored. Bored, bored, bored, bored, bored. Bored for supper, bored for lunch, bored for breakfast, and bored inbetween. Bored with books and bored with movies and bored with television. Bored with games and bored with music and bored with the internet and definitely, oh most definitely bored with each other.
“I’m bored,” Sam said.
“I’m bored, too,” Joseph said.
“Why am I here with you?” Sam asked. “You’re so boring.”
“Why am I here with you?” Joseph asked. “You’re so boring.”
But they were too bored to move away from each other. Each boy sighed. Sam grabbed another bag of chips and Joseph grabbed another fizzy drink and they lay down on the floor unable to open those chips or drink because the boredom prevented their fingers from moving.
Then, Joseph’s father’s car pulled up, and quick as a flash, the door was open, and Joseph’s father shouted out quickly, “Hi boys! Gotta run, but just dropping Grandpa Jeff off. Or maybe it’s Grandpa Jerry. One of the J grandpas. Gotta go. See ya later. Have fun all y’all! Bye!”
By the time these words had even made it to Joseph and Sam’s ears, Joseph’s father’s car was pulling out of the driveway and Grandpa Jeff or maybe it was Grandpa Jerry was sitting on his suitcase with his cane, blinking a little, and cleaning his spectacles with an embroidered kerchief.
This was something new. Sam and Joseph propelled themselves from their prone positions to investigate this new J Grandpa. They poked. They prodded. Finally, Grandpa J said, “Ouch! Stop that! Were you raised by wolves? No, I suppose not. You’d have better manners.” Red splotches broke out all over Grandpa J’s neck. He sighed. “That wasn’t nice of me, either. Allow me to introduce myself.”
Grandpa J introduced himself and Sam introduced Joseph and Joseph introduced Sam and then they stood there, looking at each other. “So, it’s summertime, boys, what are you doing for fun?”
Sam and Joseph just looked at one another. “Fun? We had fun. But it is gone now. Now we’re just bored.”
“Boards?” asked Grandpa J. “Yes, you should probably get some boards. Also, some hammers, some nails, some paint. C’mon boys. Let’s go find what we need.”
A brief while later they were hammering boards together and painting. The boys asked Grandpa J what they should paint. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “I don’t know what you should paint. You have colors and patterns and ideas of your own. Show them to the world.” They did, and as they did, Joseph and Sam realized, they were not bored. They were excited.
That evening, they ate delicious smoked tempeh and tomato sandwiches and laughed and talked with Grandpa J about heroes and movies and transforming action figures. “Grandpa J, we love adventures! Tell us some of yours!”
And so Grandpa J did. He told of fixing engines and of splitting wood, of wandering lost in a desert, and of meeting his true love. Joseph and Sam hoped their lives might be as exciting as Grandpa J’s was. At the end of the day, they thanked Grandpa J for all these grand adventure gifts. But he said to them, “Boys, every person has gifts and ideas and stories. Every person has adventures. Some know how to tell ‘em and some have a special gift of coaxing them out of someone else. But an adventure is always within your power.”
The boys went to sleep, having stored these words somewhere, but dreaming of the adventures they had told and heard. The next day, Sam and Joseph asked Grandpa J what they would do with what they built.
“Do? What do you think we should do?” The boys dreamed and they thought and they talked. And then they set up a lemonade stand. One by one kids came by that stand to talk and tell jokes and buy lemonade. Then the utility crew working on the electrical lines stopped at lunch and bought lemonade and talked about their boys and when they had lemonade stands. And so it went.
The weekend zipped by. It was time for Grandpa J to leave. He took each boy’s hand in his to shake “goodbye”. Sam and Joseph each said, “Thank you, Grandpa J, and goodbye. Come back again! We hated being bored and you fixed that.” But Grandpa J put down their hands and looked at them steadily. “Boys, boredom is a choice. You each have gifts and ideas. So did all those people you met. You each have stories. So did all those people you met. The beginning of an adventure is always within your power. When I came here I had forgotten that and you reminded me. Thank you, and goodbye.”
We may have to say goodbye at times, but when we have gratitude, we can remember the ways each person’s life touches ours, and continue to live with that gift.