It was hard to listen to Mr. Mosier, the eighth grade social studies teacher, talk about ancient Greece. Joshua’s mind was thinking of his walk home from school, the crossing over the stream in the valley, and who would be waiting at the footbridge.
He was the new kid in the class. So after one week of school, he was happy to see two of his classmates, Lester and Darrin on the bridge. Come on, they said. So he followed them to a wooded area. There, they lit up some pot and offered him a hit. Joshua immediately said no. They looked at each other and laughed. Joshua felt relieved when they didn’t say anymore.
The rest of the week fell into a routine. They met at the valley’s bridge, went to the cluster of trees and they lit up while Joshua sat and watched. They talked about the other students, which teachers were easy, which ones were tough, and what kind of cars they wanted some day. It felt great to be with someone his own age. Going home and waiting for his mom to get home after work was the pits. The empty house was a glaring reminder of the divorce.
The next Monday, Joshua watched closely and thought how cool Lester and Darrin looked smoking pot. His friends weren’t bad people or drug pushers. They acted like normal thirteen year olds. What was all the hype about anyway? It all seemed harmless to him.
“Yes, Mr. Mosier.”
“Can you answer my question?”
Joshua felt the heat creep into his face. Embarrassed, he looked down at his book and shook his head no. A few of the students giggled. Mr. Mosier walked over to his desk.
“I would like to see you after school, Joshua.”
Mr. Mosier continued droning on with the lesson. Joshua forced himself to listen and take notes. But again, his mind wondered off. Today he was going to ask if he could join them…really join them by trying pot. After all, he was old enough to make up his mind about stuff like that. His mom would never find out.
Finally the bell rang. Joshua waited at his desk, avoiding the glances from the other students as they filed out of the room. When the room was clear, he gathered his things and walked to the teacher’s desk, each step felt like he had cement shoes.
Mr. Mosier was at his desk when Joshua approached. “Having trouble concentrating today?”
“I don’t suppose your distraction has anything to do with Lester and Darrin? I saw them looking at you when they left the room.”
Joshua’s felt beads of sweat break out on his forehead. “No sir.” Oh no! Does Mr. Mosier know what they do after school?
Mr. Mosier began writing on the white board. On one side he wrote “Good Choices” and on the other “Bad Choices”. Then he connected them with a deep ‘V’. At the point of the ‘V’ he drew the letter ‘C’.
Joshua felt confused. “I don’t get it.”
“You’re at a point in your life where decisions could effect the rest of your life.” Mr. Mosier pointed at the letter ‘C’. “We are usually at this point when life presents us with…well opportunities. And, we have to make a choice. I believe God has planted a little voice inside us, and if we listen, we make good choices.”
Then the teacher pointed inside the ‘V’. “At times this valley offers what looks like an easier climb, or a short cut or blinders so we ignore danger. That’s when we make bad choices. Know what I mean?”
Joshua wasn’t entirely sure. Suddenly it was hard to swallow and felt like he couldn’t talk, so he nodded yes. How did Mr. Mosier know his thoughts?
“Ever read about David in the Bible?”
“Didn’t he write the 23rd Psalm?” Joshua managed to squeak an answer.
“Yes, he did. As you go home today…alone…perhaps you could repeat it?” Mr. Mosier smiled. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Walking home, Joshua thought about what was said in the classroom. Making right choices? Listening to a small voice? Blinders? Short cuts? Thoughts were whirling viscously in his brain.
He stopped. Just down the hill was the bridge. He saw two figures; they had waited. Suddenly, his head felt light and clear. Taking one step forward, a voice said, “Even though I walk through the valley…”
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