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STORY: Doing a Good Work

Barry was missing. He probably wandered from home. He was a Down syndrome 30-year-old in their dangerously depressed rural town near Wichita, Kansas. Most of the storefronts were boarded up, but the meth labs were big business, even just within the 10 blocks and 1600 people that made up Happyville. Yes, that was its real name.


Karen drove through the streets with tears of fear. What if she saw her son face down in a ditch? What if people had hit him with a baseball bat as they sped by in their cars like they did to all the mailboxes. The 'ruling party' in Happyville were the post-high school, jobless, drunkard or druggy young men. Strong and big from slinging hay for their farmer fathers for years, but now resentful and were losing teeth because they turned to drugs after getting out from under their parents' 'oppressive' roofs.


"God," she whispered as she looked at a couple of druggy middle schoolers walking in the road. "Help us. Our hope is almost gone."


When she eventually opened the door back at her house, tissues falling out between her clasping forearms, Barry was there, bruised and bloody, sleeping, slumped over and drooling on the arm of the sofa.


"Oh, thank you, God. Thank you. Thank you," Karen whispered as she examined him tenderly. It was just scraped elbows, grass-stained knees, and a strange red scuff on his cheek. Maybe he had just fallen in someone's yard. She had tried so hard to raise her son well. She tried to instill in him the passion to help people, even in a town where everyone only helped themselves. But she also knew full well there was no hope for him to really ever be much more than a super market bagger, or a mediocre janitor.


She didn't want to wake him so she knelt down and rested against the couch by him, with her arm gently brushing his back. And she prayed, quietly crying, "God, why is this so hard?"


When she paused to catch her breath after a few minutes she heard, "Trust me. I'm doing a good work." It was Barry's little voice.


She looked up, "What, hunny?"


He acted a little bit annoyed that she was asking him to repeat himself. "Trust me, mom. I'm doing a good work." And Barry closed his eyes again to go back to sleep. But before he did he mumbled, "That's what he told me to go tell people."


Two years later, an interesting book was published and gained popularity. It was called Happyville and was by a former resident. It had a droopy dandelion on the cover. It was about a defunct rural midwestern town, rife with meth labs and boarded-up storefronts. And though it did not end well, the whole book of horrible characters doing horrible things hinged on one scene.


The scene was the calm between the convoluted self-serving drama and power-play posturing of a meth lab, and all the young men and women that find themselves in that orbit. They had just cooked up a new batch, packaged much of it up to sell, and all 14 of the people were settling into their own meth-induced comas in different rooms of the old two story house.


Then out of the blue, a thirty-something, overweight man with Down syndrome opened the front door. The main character was a 25-year old, former-straight-A-gymnast girl who had lost all hope, having fallen victim to the vicious meth cycle. She saw the Down syndrome man wander in through the front door from where she was strewn out, alone on the living room armchair. Sun rays came in with him, like he was an angel. Then he saw her and her blackened eye and broken lip, and started to walk toward her as if he wanted to help or tell her something. She saw the pure-hearted, concerned look on his face and it was unlike how anyone had looked at her for a long time.


Before he got to her, her boyfriend and another man intercepted him, landed a punch on his cheek and shoved him down the steps outside the front door. She couldn't see but heard him trying to get back in. Eventually they shut him out and it looked like all had calmed.


Until a few minutes later when she heard a tapping at the window behind her. She looked around and saw just two pudgy fingers at the window which was a little too high for him to reach. She just watched. A minute later the hand disappeared and reappeared with a tiny droopy dandelion. It just stayed there for a long time. She repositioned herself in the chair to watch. At some point during that time she realized he was whispering something outside.


After about an hour of her not moving but trying to decipher what the whisper was saying, the teetering dandelion disappeared along with the whispering. And didn't return.


The characters all ended in rehab, jail or dead but the last scene of the book was her alone in a cold rehab cell remembering how that man had tried to reach her and wishing with all her heart she had gone to his calling. She wished she could see the world more like he did. She got up from her bed, went to her desk, picked up a pencil and started to write. The first line of her story was this:


"I couldn't hear exactly what the fat dumb man's whisper said, but what it left in me was this. 'He is doing a good work in you. Do your good work he's placed in you.' So here I am, to give you what I have. What I have is the vision of him."

This was also the first line of that book that swept the nation.


And this novel became the exit catalyst for many who had lost their way to drugs. They resonated with the life the author had depicted so accurately, and with the goodness they had all lost, as demonstrated in such sharp contrast by the Down syndrome man. The novel showed people where they would end up before they actually got there, and it gave them the vision of the goodness they were losing, before it was too late to get up and fight for it again.


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When you're feeling like hope is lost, it is a comfort to know that he can do a good work through what feels like the darkest of times.


I am doing a good work in you and I will not give up until its completion.


Raw Spoon, 2-26-21


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These BLOGS are usually inspired by messages I (or friends) feel we have heard from God. This is the nature of our God. Listen for how he may be speaking to you.

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