Saturday, my husband followed our GPS to a conference center bordering the inner city of St. Louis. He drove our four door, sandy colored Chevy. I sat on the passenger side, gripping an imaginary safety handle to make me feel more secure. The day was dull, cold and cloudless. Slight rain began to bubble on our windshield. My cell phone rang. “Hello,” I said. It was my forecaster son, calling to warn me of the freezing rain ahead. “Be careful,” he said.
Normally, I wouldn’t go out on a dreadful day like Saturday. I’d probably stay home where it was warm and dry. I’d sit in front of my worn keyboard and blue computer screen writing the hours away. Instead, I had the chance to be a guest of a company named, TGIM. I was intrigued by their unique and special program entitled, Writing For The Soul Workshop. ™ It is targeted to underprivileged youth who live in cities and states across America. As a writer who has a tremendous love for ‘little lambs,’ I was on my way that day.
When I first walked into the conference room, I noticed nothing fancy. Instead, it was clean and cozy. The perfect place to be on a dreary and drizzly day. I knew no one, yet I felt right at home. Like others did. When it was time to start, warm welcomes were given and introductions were made. Children with fresh scrubbed faces and clean washed clothes sat in neat rows of metal chairs. They fidgeted upon blue padded seats where young minds were ready to write stories they hadn’t imagined yet. Mothers and fathers, uncles and aunts, and grandmothers too, were there to make a difference in children’s lives. It’s ironic how things happen. When young spirits blossom, communities often rise. My eyes snapped pictures of possibilities then.
Soon, a beautiful young girl sat next to me, touching my heart. Like everyone else in the room, she was asked one simple question. “During this past week, what were you most grateful for?” She whispered her answer, “My mama.” Brushing neat long braids behind her back, she wiped budding tears from corners of deep brown eyes. Damp dark lashes fluttered, like butterflies. Choking up, she added, “My mama works so hard to put these clothes on my back.”
This blushing teen wore a shirt in the brightest neon pink, glittering in twinkling black stars. They sparkled and shined, like she did. Tears silently flowed. She oozed pride from pores hidden within. Much older than her young age, she was already aware of the many gifts she’d been given due to the efforts of her good mama. This delicate girl’s voice cracked. She cried. She could no longer speak.
Later, in the back of the room when it was time for children and teens to find their inner voices, to write stories on white sheets of lined paper with yellow #2 pencils, this same sweet girl was stumped. Too emotional perhaps, to reach far into that special place called imagination. I kneeled down to remind her of the love she shared with the mama she spoke so proudly of. “You know you’re a star because of her,” I said pointing to her dancing shirt. She smiled slightly then, tapping the tip of her pencil atop the Formica table.
Shortly afterward, my cell phone rang again. It was my forecaster son, calling to update me about the freezing rain. He does that sometimes. Like a doctor on call. “It’s getting worse,” he said. “Go home if you can.”
Passing behind the lovely young girl with butterfly lashes, I stopped to say, “Good-bye.” This time it was my voice that cracked. I was the one who couldn’t speak. On a white sheet of lined paper a full page had been written. It was the story of a dear child who loved her proud mama. Far at the very top, written in yellow #2 pencil was the title, “The Star.”
A few hours spent on a cold and rainy day in a conference room near the inner city of St. Louis had reached deep into my soul, changing me forevermore. I wondered then, is that why TGIM named their program, Writing For The Soul Workshop™?