The sun was beating up on us one Summer day. I was with 5 boys all at the age of 9-10. We would form a line as we follow a path in the woods then by twos, or threes, depending on the width of the lane. We would not stop talking, trying to outsmart each other with our stories and recent jokes. We had to talk loud to be able to hear each other and to beat the sound of the river nearby. It didn’t take us a long time before we reach our destination. A hundred meters in front of us is a lagoon about 200 square feet. Some kids were already there ahead of us and they looked like ducks jumping and screaming from a distance.
The sight prompted us to speed up walking, then running and one by one taking off our clothes. Being competitive, we raised to the pool that looked like a big mug of milk coffee. I just learned how to swim and I mastered the “dog style” that I’ve learned from my friends the previous month. We didn’t mind the mud and slimy water.
From the side was knee deep and it goes deeper towards the wide flat rock across the river. That was my goal for the day. To swim to that rock and sit and watch the other kids who are swimming, jumping, splashing and screaming on top of their lungs. I made it to the rock at the first attempt. Then at second and third. I was getting tired but I decided to go for the forth one. I was excited to touch the rock but my hand slipped and I moved back towards the center of the lagoon. I swum back but I couldn’t move forward. I went down but managed to swim up and grasp for air. My cry for help was muffled down by the screaming kids around me. I raised my hand and waved to the boy who was sitting on the rock and I was glad that he saw me. Without delay, he quickly stretched his hand and caught mine. He pulled me up and helped me sit. I cried as I calmed myself down. “Thanks!” I said.
“No worries” he answered as he tapped my back. “Be careful next time.”
“I will.” I said. I experienced the first taste of salvation.
I was 23 years old when I was swimming in a pool of self-pity, immorality and despair. I gulped the last mug of beer and excused myself from my friends who were busy chatting, puffing and gulping. I took a walk in the red light district to cool down. I swerved myself from left to right towards one bench. I slouched, rested by back and head and just melted in the midst of buzzling around me. One moment past, I felt someone sat beside me. He cleared his throat. “Tired, huh?” he asked.
“Yeah.” I said without turning my head and my eyes still shut.
“You know, I used to hang out in those bars for fun. I don’t go there now.”
“You found a better place?” I asked. He got my attention. I wanted to check out new places. I straighten up myself.
“Yup.” Since I became a born-again Christian, I was able to say “no” to drugs, immorality and these stuff, kicking some cigarette butts on the road. “Jesus, is the river of life. He refreshed me and made me whole.”
Who is this man who is taking time to talk to me even when I’m drunk and smelling like vomit? I wondered. “I’m a Catholic, and I know Jesus.” I blurted out.
“Okay, well….you might want to read this at your spare time.” And handed me a small booklet.
“The Gospel of John” …..
“Yeah, and our phone number and address are written at the back. Just in case you wanted to talk to us about anything, anytime.”
“Hey, Domie…..let’s go.” My friends were yelling at me. Their heads popping out from my friend’s car that stopped in front of me.
I stood up and about to introduce my new friend but when I turned, he’s already gone.
I shoved the booklet into my jacket’s side pocket and hopped in the car. I had all the liberty to read it during the weekend. I thank God for that Divine appointment in the red light district. It led me to the River of Life that made me whole.
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