Sunday, August 19, 2018

Backwards Henry

This is a story I wrote in 2010 after I had been exploring the idea of Grace for a number of years. It was a concept that was a mystery to me. I didn't connect with any of the definitions of Grace that I had heard over the years, so I went searching for my own. The conclusion I came to for myself was that Grace is about connecting with your heart and the love that lives there, and in that moment of connection setting that love free to move into the world. In other words, Grace is love in motion, love in action. That was the definition of Grace that made the most sense to me.

What didn't make sense to me was the saying, There but for the Grace of God go I. I couldn't understand a God that would grant me Grace, but simply deny it to another. That didn't sound like the God I had come to know. So I took another look at that phrase. Backwards Henry grew out of that process. I wrote it as a children's picture book, but I think it might be for adults just as much. 😀 Enjoy! 

Backwards Henry
By Lynda Allen

            From the world’s point of view Henry often gets things backwards.  He is left handed, which doesn’t seem backwards to him.  He sometimes puts his coat on backwards.  He likes to walk backwards.  He tried to ride his bike backwards once – only once.  He even sometimes spells things bakcwadrs.

            So it was no surprise when one day he was downtown with his father and heard something backwards. 

            It was take your son or daughter to work day and Henry was overjoyed to be going in to work with his Dad.  He had put on his best pants (frontwards) and a tie and had ridden the train with his Dad. 

            Now they were walking down the sidewalk surrounded by giant buildings.  He felt very small. 

            Then he saw someone who he knew felt even smaller than he did.  There was a man sitting on the sidewalk in dirty, tattered, old clothes.  He had a little box lid in front of him with a sign written by hand.  Henry couldn’t read but he had heard about people who didn’t have homes and lived on the streets in the city and he thought this might be one of those people. 

            The man sat near a corner at a stoplight so people were passing him on two sides.  Henry looked around and saw that not many of the people noticed the man.  Henry looked at him though, while he waited for the light to change. 

            The man looked up and Henry thought he saw a light in his eyes.  The stoplight changed and Henry’s Dad tried to walk but Henry was still staring at the man.  His Dad looked down to see what Henry was doing and followed his eyes to the man.  Henry’s Dad was a compassionate man, and he looked from Henry to the man and back to his son again.  He reached in his pocket and took out a dollar bill and gave it to Henry.  Henry looked up at his Dad with wide eyes then took the dollar bill and timidly reached out toward the box top to put it in.  Henry didn’t get that backwards; he placed the bill gently in the box and smiled at the man.  The man smiled back and Henry again saw the flicker of light in his eyes.  He turned and took his father’s hand again.  As they began to walk his father said in a quiet voice, “There but for the Grace of God go I.”  Henry watched the man over his shoulder for as long as he could.

            Henry had such an exciting time at his Dad’s office making copies (a little backwards!) and answering the phone (upside down) and typing on the computer (some deleting), that by the end of the day he had almost forgotten all about the man on the corner. 

            But as they started their trip down the street to the subway station and neared the corner he remembered and began peering around other people on the sidewalk to see if he was still there.  Sure enough when they got to the corner and were waiting for the light, he could see the man was still there across the street.  Except now Henry could see that the man was leaning over against the building fast asleep. 

            The light changed and the crowd walked across the street and as Henry passed the man he looked at him and said in his small voice and in his backward way, “There but for I go the Grace of God.” 

            Several people on the sidewalk heard Henry’s words and stopped in their tracks, including his father.  Squatting down next to his son he asked, “What did you say?”  Having a feeling he had gotten it wrong again Henry repeated, “There but for I go the Grace of God.”  He looked up eagerly at his Dad, “Did I get it wrong Daddy?” 

            A small group was listening now. One woman, who had stopped, looked from Henry to the man asleep on the sidewalk then back to Henry.  She smiled brightly at Henry and said, “I think you got it just exactly right young man.”  She took out her wallet and placed a five dollar bill in the box in front of the man.  Several other people in the crowd did the same. 

            Henry looked surprised and smiled at each of them as they looked back at him.  He turned to his father who was still squatting beside him and saw tears in his eyes.  Suddenly his Dad pulled Henry into his arms and held him tightly. 

            Henry wasn’t really sure what he had done or what had happened but he knew that it was important and that he would always remember that moment and that man. 

            As they walked away Henry thought about the light he had seen in that man’s eyes and wondered about how surprised he would be when he woke up to see all that money in his box.  Henry made a wish right then that it would make the man smile. 

            Then Henry turned around and walked backwards all the way to the train station and his Dad let him.

Copyright 2010 Lynda Allen