When he tried to express himself with words, he could never get it right. but with his hands, he could shape things, mold things, and make things. He had discovered that gift as a young boy when he was alone at school. He had never been good at making friends, and the ones he did have from his neighborhood avoided him at school out of fear of being bullied just for being nice to the “weird” kid. Eventually, he adjusted to being alone. He found solace in the grove of pine trees at the edge of the school yard. The shouts and screams of the other kids were quiet amongst to trees and the gentle breeze often whisked them away entirely. This was the perfect place for him to realize his talent.
He began by gathering the fallen branches and the dried wood was easily peeled away from the bark. The branches he chose fit together well and the frayed hem of his shirt provided enough string to hold them together. His first project took three recess periods to complete. The creation was haphazardly constructed to collect acorns from the oak trees nearby. The little boy hoped his work would make it easier for the smaller woodland creatures find food for the winter.
However, he realized he could do much better. He continued to try new things in his lightly wooded sanctuary. Meanwhile, across the school yard, a little girl noticed him in the trees. Her fascination in him grew, until she decided to go meet him. Wrapped up in his work, he failed to hear the girl’s footsteps crunching the browning leaves covering the path. He was startled by her greeting, which was met with a gentle chuckle. For the first time in months, the boy had a reason to smile. Unfortunately, the smile quickly faded because he was too afraid to speak. His head quickly bent down and he continued to focus on the ribbons of wood he had piled up to work with.
The girl watched silently as his small fingers weaved the wood together in a perfect pattern. She began to move further into the grove, and he became worried that the one person who had paid him any attention was already walking away for good. Beads of water began to form in the corners of his eyes, and he became more upset that he allowed himself to wish for a little companionship. He sniffled quietly, and turned his head when he hear a rustling sound coming from the trees. His eyes lit up and his smile beamed brighter than ever as he watched the girl emerge from the trees with a bundle of branches gathered in her arms. Finally, he found the courage to speak as she laid the branches down and sat beside him. “T-t-thank y-y-you,” he stuttered in a whisper. “You’re very welcome,” she replied with a kiss on his cheek.
The memory faded in his mind. It still makes him smile now. He continued to scrape at the block of pine in his hands. His childhood projects inspired a lifetime of carpentry. The shelf about his workbench held a few of his greatest achievements and many pictures of his happy family.
He was nearing the end of his work day and he was looking forward to the best part of the day. Shavings and sawdust littered the surfaces of the cozy woodshed, and they shifted on the floor as he moved from his chair. The brisk fall air rushed past him as he opened the door. The familiar sound of his footsteps on the browning leaves on the lawn made him smile again as he approached the back door of his home. He glanced up at the slowly setting sun and sighed before he reached for the doorknob.
The old man was greeted the same way as he had for many years. His wife greeted him with a hug as he shut the door and she placed a kiss upon his cheek.