He was the same every day. He stood at the crosswalk wearing his bright orange vest and holding up a stop sign. He always a kind word for everyone. Never did he become angry with a driver or a pedestrian. That was Sal. He encouraged all of us.
I walked past him daily, walking my daughter to her kindergarten class. The following year, I pushed her brother in a buggy past Sal twice a day. Some mornings, I was frazzled, chasing after my busy toddler who would wiggle out of his snowsuit faster than I could put it on. Sal could give an encouraging word to all the parents that walked past him daily. He laughed and joked with the children. It was evident that he loved the children and that they loved him.
A few years passed on and still Sal was there every Monday to Friday morning and afternoon ensuring that his children, as he called them, made it safely across the road. It seemed to me that he was ageless.
Then one morning, Sal wasn’t at the crosswalk.
“Hey,” asked my son, “Where’s Sal?”
“I don’t know,” replied a stranger that was taking Sal’s place.
He wasn’t there in the afternoon when it was time to bring children home. The next day, he was still missing, and the day after that. The person that now stood at the crosswalk was okay, but he wasn’t Sal. My children and their friends asked daily what had happened to him. Finally, by the third day of his absence I asked the principal if he knew where Sal was.
“Yes,” he said, “I know what happened to Sal.” Worry flashed across his face as I braced myself for what would likely be bad news.
“He’s sick. His family called to tell me that they had to take him to the hospital. I know that I need to tell the students but I was hoping that he would be well after a couple of days. I talked with his daughter today and it’s really worse than I imagined. She doesn’t think that her dad will be leaving the hospital for a long time.
I left the principal’s office with a mission. I planned to contact as many parents as possible and suggest that the children and adults make cards and gifts for Sal. I felt that it was time for us to repay him for all that he had given to us over the years.
Shortly after making my phone calls, cards and gifts began appearing at our house. It was incredible to see such a wonderful response from the community. The next afternoon I loaded up everything into our van and drove to the hospital.
When I brought in the first load of cards and gifts Sal’s daughter was surprised. By the time that I carried in three more loads she had tears streaming down her face.
“Thank you so much,” she looked over at her father as she spoke. “He is still quite sleepy because of the medication but I’m certain that when he wakes up he will probably want me to phone you so that he can say thank you.”
I quietly gave her our phone number and left. It was time for me to get my kids from school. When they asked about the gifts and cards for Sal I reassured them that I had delivered all of them.
Sal did phone that evening. Although he was weary he asked to speak to both of my children. They were thrilled to hear from him. He then spoke with me. I thanked him for all the years that he shared his gifts of kindness and encouragement with all of us. I think that I will always remember his whispered thank you and final good bye.
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