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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Repeat (01/24/13)

TITLE: Who Cares?
By Sheldon Bass


How could just a smile be so powerful? What was it that made my heart feel as if intensified rays from the sun had just burst through my dark world, penetrating my soul? She was not pretty at all, and yet something about her was beautiful, something that went beyond externals.

I had been rejected, hurt, and afraid for so long. Trudging through life stooped over, carrying heavy bricks of shame and guilt on my back was normal. Loneliness and darkness and self pity were constant companions, they were my friends. Nobody wanted me. No one could possibly want someone as ugly inside and out as me. Yet, what was this forceful shaft of hope that offered acceptance with just a facial gesture of kindness?

She wore a white tee-shirt emblazoned with two simple red words; "Jesus Cares". It was hard not to keep staring each time the carousel came back around. I took root in the spot I stood; mesmerized by seeing her rise and drop so gracefully on the wooden steed she rode, going around again and again. Time and space were as frozen as the arctic tundra. Each time she made the turn, her eyes sought my face to impart joy through her glorious smile that kept saying: "I care". And each time I read the words on the shirt, over and over; "Jesus cares."

Could it be that someone really does care about me? I've been let down, disappointed too many times. But her eyes said something different, something genuine, and potent. I had heard that Jesus loves me, but I'd never experienced it.

Finally, the hour long moment came to a conclusion. The merry-go-round was stopping. What should I do? I had to know what this power was that had shot beams of promise into my inner being. She walked towards me with the same glow on her face, the same smile, even the fiery eyes of compassion were still ablaze with yeses. Then she spoke.

"Are you going to ride?"

"uh...um...no, I just enjoy watching the others."

"I saw you standing alone, looking down and blue, and thought maybe you would like some company."

Did she want something from me? Why would a complete stranger care if I was depressed? But her eyes just kept confirming her smile. Those two words continued echoing in my mind; Jesus Cares. Then she asked; "Would you like to get a soda with me?"

"Um, ah...sure, I guess so."

I couldn't walk away from an offer to fill this deep need that had been crushing my spirit under a monolithic mountain of pain; a loveless void, locked, unreachable in an inner chamber of myself. Yet, somehow the barrier had been breeched.

We sat at a small, round table sporting an umbrella for shade. But nothing could diminish the radiance that shone from my hero's heart underneath the canopy. Reaching into a shoulder bag she withdrew a white Bible, set it on the table, and opened its pages.

"Do you mind if I share something with you?"

"Well sure, go ahead."

My new friend showed how Jesus understood and accepted a Samaritan woman at a well, whose character was tainted. The good news began to ignite a burning hope in my heart. Jesus Cares! She told of how Jesus loves the unlovable, and accepts the outcasts of society. Jesus Cares! I wasn't so different from Zacchaeus, an unlovable and dishonest tax collector and sinner, who found forgiveness and became a better person. Jesus Cares!

Joy bubbled up to overflow within me, like a jolt of electric happiness surging through my veins. Jesus died for them and for me, because He cares. He saves us, then leads the way to victory over the ugliness of the world. While on this journey, with Jesus as guide, the unsightly become beautiful, and the worthless grow to be fruitful.

Lifting my face to the heavens I cried thank you to God for His love. My eyes became fuzzy with wetness, spilling down my hot cheeks, dripping onto our now joined hands across the table.

Bowing my head at the table, I invited Jesus to come into my heart and bring His light. He chased away all the darkness that had weighed on my life for so long. The clouds had parted, the Son was shining. And for the first time I knew what it means to be a true child of God, to be accepted and loved, all because Jesus cares.

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This article has been read 838 times
Member Comments
Member Date
C D Swanson 02/02/13
Beautiful! This was a moving testimony and loving story. Thanks!

God bless~
Allison Egley 02/03/13
I like this.

There were a couple places I noticed that could have been reworked a bit, but nothing major and nothing that took away from the entry as a whole.

Nice job.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 02/04/13
I really enjoyed the story. You had a great beginning that showed the inner conflict of the MC, drawing the reader into the story.

Out of the criteria the judges use to score the articles, I think your weakest one will be Is it on topic? That's not to say you didn't touch on repeat, but that other criteria were stronger.

As I got near the end, I had a feeling that the girl on the carousel would mysteriously disappear. Many writers will use that literary device of the stranger turned angel, however, you did not fall into that trap and that made your story stand out. There are people out there who are human, who love Jesus and want to share the good news with others. This is a great bit of writing with a powerful message. I really loved it!
Margaret Kearley 02/04/13
I loved this! Right from the start with the repeated circling of the carousel, you were on topic. The reinforcement of the message 'Jesus Cares' continued the theme and the whole story was thrilling to read. Well done. A really good entry.
Glynis Becker02/04/13
Very nicely done. There were some beautiful descriptive phrases in here and it came to a satisfying conclusion. Keep up the good work!
Alicia Renkema02/05/13
You made me want to meet this rider upon the "wooden steed" as you so eloquently referred to it in your piece. You did a great job of using the theme repeat in 3 ways that I saw: the carousel itself that went round and round; the rider's smile who was constantly there from the moment you first spied her looking at you to the end of the story when you invited Jesus into your life and of course the wonderful fact that Jesus does indeed care for each one of us all the time. This carousel rider with the beautiful smile so intrigued me and yet what was even more intriguing is that when I went back to re-read your story I noticed that you had written that there was nothing physically beautiful about her.It just goes to show you that the real beauty found in life is in the repetition of our spirit's showing forth God's love to one another. Thank you for this piece of wonderful writing that made me want to be both people in the story yet for different reasons...
Danielle King 02/05/13
I saw the 'repeat' theme in your story and I really enjoyed reading how the MC was led to Jesus. Lovely job!
Myrna Noyes02/05/13
This is a wonderfully inspiring piece! It encouraged me that a genuine smile can be both an invitation and an entrance to share Christ with others. Your story was very well-written and I loved your descriptive style! Great job! :)
Cheryl Harrison02/05/13
Sweet testimony. It's so wonderful... that moment we realize that... Jesus Cares. Good job!
Judith Gayle Smith02/05/13
You have a winner here. I want to be the gal on the carousel! I love this so much, I read it to my hubby and sis - we all agree: "Excellent"!
Loren T. Lowery02/06/13
Great story telling - you do have a way with words - that tug at the emotions and draws the reader in. I loved the idea of the carrousel to show God's repeated attempts to catch our eye and finally begin a conversation that will change a person's life forever.
Sheldon Bass 02/07/13
Just to clarify to all, this, my 5th entry in the challenge is a fictional story and not my personal testimony. I felt that writing it from the p.o.v. of the MC, I could rationalize having intimate knowledge of what was going on inside of the MC. Thanks for all the wonderful comments.
Allison Egley 02/08/13
I noticed your comments about a critique on the message boards, so I thought I'd go back, take a look at your article, take a look at my first comment, and see what I could do. :) I said that some parts could be reworked a bit. Here's an example. Your second paragraph:

I had been rejected, hurt, and afraid for so long. Trudging through life stooped over, carrying heavy bricks of shame and guilt on my back was normal. Loneliness and darkness and self pity were constant companions, they were my friends. Nobody wanted me. No one could possibly want someone as ugly inside and out as me. Yet, what was this forceful shaft of hope that offered acceptance with just a facial gesture of kindness?

It's a bit wordy. You might try something like this:

I had been rejected and hurt for so long that carrying the heavy burden of guilt on my back felt normal. Loneliness, darkness, and pity were my constant companions. They convinced my that nobody could want someone like me. I was ugly inside and out. What was about just a smile that offered such a fierce hope?

You still say the same thing, but it's not quite as wordy, and it flows a lot better. I'll keep in mind that you want "hard" critiques when I comments on your future challenge entries.

Catherine Craig 02/10/13
What a way with words you have. "...monolithic mountain of pain; a loveless void... Nice. Axing words, especially when one is naturally good with them, is so painful but improves clarity so much when needed.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 02/13/13
Since you asked for s more detailed critique on the message boards, I thought I'd run through some of the judging criteria and leave my opinion. This doesn't mean this is how the judges would score it, but just my thoughts.
The beginning felt a tad slow to me. Some may feel that by opening with questions, the piece might turn preachy. In fact I think I'd start with the second paragraph, after tightening it up some:
As I trudged through life, rejection, failure, and loneliness dogged my heels. The weight of my burdens stooped my back. Dodging bricks of shame and guilt, I found the path I had chosen to be filled with danger."Nobody cares about a loser like you. Why, you don't have a single friend. Who would dare be seen with such a pitiful creature?" The tape in my brain ran on a loop and constantly hurled insults at me. Yet, every once in a while my eyes caught a glimmer of light. Who dared to enter the dark recesses of my mind and offer me a glimmer of hope?
That may not be perfect but I hope it shows how using more active verbs can help the reader relate and create a picture. It would also serve as a nice transition into the original paragraph about the smiling person.
Overall, I'd say your beginning was above average, you did a nice job of showing the reader the conflict immediately. Every great story needs a conflict, not necessarily the typical definition, but something to intrigue the reader and make her want to keep reading to see how the conflict is resolved.

The next criteria is creativity. Basically, is the story fresh, does it tackle the topic in a creative and different way. I think you would range in the very good area for this criterion. Many people would have been tempted to have her be a mysterious stranger who later is discovered to be an angel so I liked you went in a different direction.

As for topic, you do touch on it with the merry-go-round, but it may have been too subtle for many readers. I'd say for me it would be on the average end of the spectrum. Could the story be told without that in it and still be effective? And If the reader didn't know the topic was would they guess it correctly? These are two questions I try to ask myself when I'm writing.

Next is crafting. This is pretty straightforward. Do you use proper grammar and punctuation or is it riddled with typos or change of tense (starts in present but ends in past) Is there a POV shift where the reader sees or knows something that the MC doesn't know. We can only see, hear, smell what the MC feels, sees, and does. I think you would rank quite high on this, it may have been a tiny bit predictable, but not really as I would have guessed they run off into the sunset in ,love. So I think you did a nice job with the mechanics of writing. There may have been times when you slipped into some minor purple prose. Take this for example: I couldn't walk away from an offer to fill this deep need that had been crushing my spirit under a monolithic mountain of pain; a loveless void, locked, unreachable in an inner chamber of myself. Yet, somehow the barrier had been breeched.
That might be a tad too poetic. It's great to give the reader a picture, but try to use great verbs like crushed, breached instead of fancy adverbs and adjectives
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 02/13/13
Oops my finger accidentally hit submit. I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to check typos before hitting submit. The last criteria is ending. I think you did very good on that too. You resolved the conflict in a reasonable way. Some questions were left to make the reader think, which is good,

The transitions, I would say were good too. You don't seem to have problems going from one paragraph to the next. I think if you looked for suggestions on transitioning, you could easily catapult the next story into the great level for transitions. The last about publishable is harder for me to guess. I think with some polishing it could be good if you find the right publication for this type of story.

I want to stress that though I picked it apart quite a bit, that doesn't negate any of the good things I said earlier. You do have a knack for story telling. The more you write and study other stories, the better you will be. Keep at it my friend, God has great things stowed away for you and I have no doubt that more people than you can dream of will be touched by your words. :-)