Sometimes joy can be found no further than your own front yard. Today's episode takes us to Ed's house, where his family talks him into taking part in the challenge. Ed was not happy about it. But watch what happens when he chooses to be brave.Support the show
Sometimes bravery isn’t about doing something big - but actually doing something small.
In the details of Old Man Wither’s unusual dying request, he had spelled out that being brave might look different to different people. That to some, it might be revisiting the joys of your youth again - to do something you always loved to do - or never got the chance to do. To experience life with the same wide-eyed wonder we had when we were kids - as if anything was possible and probable. The dreams you outgrew. Or were talked out of.
To some, the opportunity to revisit their childhood was easy. Which is why it wasn’t unusual that year to see someone skateboarding down the street. Or a grown man trick-or-treating. Revisiting childhood became to many a delicious invitation. But not to Ed Jenkins.
Ed Jenkins was a no frills man. He lived by a checklist of things that made sense and made money. Ed believed that your worth was determined by how much money you have in the bank, where you live, what you drive, who you know, and how many hours you can work in a week. Ed had worked hard his whole life and was proud of what he had accomplished for his five children and wife. Ed was a provider - which like anything, in moderation, can be a good thing. But Ed had left moderation a long time ago.
So when the conversation of the challenge came up again at the dinner table while all five of his children and his wife were giving him that look that said Can we Dad? Can we? He errupted.
Do something brave? He barked. I’ve never heard of such nonsense. Bravery is going to work every day. Bravery is paying your bills. Bravery is preparing for your future. Act like a child again? He was disgusted and appalled at this silly request. Whoever heard of such a thing? He was a busy man. Sales man. If he didn’t work, he didn’t get paid. This was his busiest season. This couldn’t have come at a worse time. Act like a child? He didn’t even get to act like a child when he WAS a child. He had closed that door a long time ago and never looked back. Childhood was overrated. And he would not be revisiting that any time soon.
Don’t be mad at Ed. Like anybody, if you knew his story, you would understand how we sees the world and why he does the things he does. Not everybody had a childhood worth repeating. And some doors probably shouldn’t be opened.
We’re not participating in such foolishness, he announced to his wife and children, with his traditional end of discussion face. And he meant it. Until his wife grabbed his arm and gave him that rare look she reserved for the battles she felt were worth fighting. Sarah was quiet and reserved, and the kind of wife Ed needed. But don’t mistake her for someone weak. For Sarah had a wisdom and a kindness that always managed to sneak into Ed’s vulnerable places. They were a good fit. And he listened to her more than he would let on.
Like any husband and wife who’ve pretty much grown up together, you can have a whole conversation in front of the children without saying a word. One simple warm hand placed over Ed’s hand, a sweet smile, and an expression that said, I don’t often ask you for much. But this - do it for me - was all it took.
What do you suggest we do? he asked angrily to his wife and children who sat quietly staring down at their plates. Finally the youngest one, Seth, looked up in courageous defiance and announced, I want to jump in the leaves. You never let us jump in the leaves.
If you knew this family, you would see that Seth is the spitting image of his father. And that expression on his face - well for Ed - was like looking in a mirror.
What nobody in that room knew, was that Seth had just thrown Ed back to the very thing he had always wanted to do as a child. To the moments he used to watch that family across the street - on Saturdays - wrapped up in their sweaters and toboggans, raking leaves and jumping, being chased by their dog in the front yard. A big white dog with a red collar.
I know. Big deal. So a family is raking leaves on a Saturday. We did that growing up and me and my sister complained the whole time. I don’t exactly look back to that in fondness. But I guess it depends on where you sit. Like a kid looking in from a different house.
The entire family held their breath at Seth’s request - out of excitement, and a little shock at even the idea of seeing their dad jump in a pile of leaves. Ed sighed and said, Alright. Yard needs raking anyway. We can save money doing it ourselves. We’ll have a meeting after dinner and plan it all out. Good thing it’s a holiday weekend - can’t make client calls anyway. Sarah smiled at him and kissed his head as she cleared the table.
I’m not sure any family goes about the feat of raking leaves with the planning Ed put into it. The necessary supplies. The raking system. How high should the pile be for maximum jumping. But even Ed couldn’t suck the excitement out of the air as they bundled up and grabbed their rakes on Saturday morning.
There was more than one curtain flickering on the street as undoubtedly people were peeking out at this strange thing happening in Ed Jenkins’ yard of all places.
They raked all the leaves into one giant pile - directly under the big tree in the corner. And decided it wasn’t high enough, so they started going to other houses and asking for some of their leaves.
They had made the pile directly under that really big branch and placed a ladder up against it so you could climb out on the limb and jump from even higher up. Ed’s idea! Which sounded like fun - even if the branch broke on Ed’s turn. And he didn’t even get mad!
The pile of leaves they made could be seen all the way down the street. And the sound of them laughing could be heard even further. And get this - Ed was laughing loudest of all. They had never heard their father really laugh like this before. It was kind of weird. With leaves stuck in his hair. And getting dirt on his sweater. Watching him fall back into the leaves with his arms stretched out - just laying there staring up into the sky. That’s what you could see. What you couldn’t see? Well I guess you could say that the child he never got to be - was born.
They stayed in that yard until it got too dark to see and then sat in lawn chairs sipping hot chocolate. That was the best day ever.
A few days later, Ed came home from work with a surprise for the family. A dog! A big white one with a red collar - that ate Ed’s work shoes, and two of his good ties - got out every time someone left the front door open and Ed had to chase him around the neighborhood - and that Ed threatened to give away at least once a week. But never went through with it.
Ed Jenkins as it turned out, would never live long enough to enjoy retirement, or see all his children get married. After his funeral, they sat around telling stories about their dad - starting with their favorite that began by pointing to a picture above the fireplace - of them laying in a pile of leaves laughing up to the sky.
Everyone would agree, that Ed was a good provider for his family. And thanks to Old Man Withers and a silly challenge - Ed provided something worth much more than money. A memory worth keeping.