|In college, we were given an assignment to write a
descriptive 'story' - something to make the reader 'feel' with
Most of the other students used sight, sound, smell, touch,
and taste - I had to be different! I wanted to make the reader
'feel' emotions. I opted for the 'sixth sense'.
by Xander Riley
I was a hero. Not the kind you see on the evening news that rescued dozens of people from a burning building. I was the man who rescued
old Mrs. Timmerson’s kitten from a tree. I was the man who pulled Chuckie Cartwright’s puppy out of the old well. I was the man who repaired
old Ike and Ida Tutton’s heater when the winter weather surprised us a month early. I was the man who paid little Susie Appleby to wash my car
(even though I had just finished washing and waxing it) so she could earn enough money to replace her mother’s vase which she broke. I was
their hero. I was a hero to the ‘everyman’.
I always held open the door for strangers – not only for women, but for men too. I helped elderly men and women cross the busy streets during
rush hour. I carried in groceries for those individuals who had trouble doing it themselves. These people referred to me as a ‘gentleman,’ but
I never completely agreed with that term. To me, these were simply acts of human kindness.
After sixty-something years of helping everyone I met, my life was finally ending. And I was alone.
I stared at the ceiling of my hospital room in total solitude. No visitors, no flowers, no family, no friends. An entire lifetime of giving to others
and receiving nothing in return. A lifetime which encompassed over sixty years, fifteen cities, and three countries. A lifetime of many
acquaintances, but few friends. I was never alone in my life. But I was alone when I died.
The white light appeared and I slowly moved towards it. But a gentle force diverted me from my path, leading me off to one side – to a chamber
which seemed to stretch forever in every direction. There was nobody else in the room, but I knew that I was not alone. A voice spoke in my
head. A deep, rumbling voice. God’s voice.
He told me that I would not be entering Heaven yet. I was to return to Earth and start a new life. I was devastated. I had been denied my final
“How can you treat me this way? Have I not lived a good life, a life of helping those in need? Why must I suffer through another painful life?”
He did not respond. Instead, a woman materialized in front of me. I recognized her immediately, though she was now young and pretty. She
was old Mrs. Timmerson.
“You saved my kitten from a tree. He was my whole world in those last days of my life. You carried my groceries for me when my arthritis flared
up. You sat with me in the evenings, chattering aimlessly with an old woman who had no one in her life. You were the one who discovered my
crumpled body on the floor after my heart attack. It was you who rode with me in the ambulance, holding my hand for support. When I awoke in
the scary hospital bed, it was you I first saw – asleep on the chair beside me. You were there for me when I needed someone the most. And
now, I will be returning to a new life – a life of giving selflessly to others. A life like the one you led. This time, you will not be working alone.”
Tears had filled my eyes. I realized that I mattered in the grand scheme of things. I had made a difference in somebody’s life. My own life was
not meaningless after all.
Another person appeared in the room with us. And then another. In mere moments, the room was packed full. Full of people I recognized.
Full of people I had helped. Each one was returning to lead a life like mine. Paying it forward, so to speak.
Once again, I heard God’s voice in my head: “You are never alone.”
My eyes closed, heavy with tears. When I opened them next, I was staring into the beautiful brown eyes of a
young woman. I tried to speak, but could not.
She slapped me hard on my bare bottom and I cried for the first time – again.
© Copyright 2010 Xander Riley