“What’s that, Tommy?”
Tommy Harris turned to see his step mom, Josie, staring at the torn and stained card in his hands. It was the last thing packed from his desk. Looking around the bare half of his dorm room, it now made his move complete.
“It’s, um, the card you sent me when I first started college.”
He used his college sweatshirt sleeve to wipe a stray tear. Josie nodded.
“I didn’t know you kept it.”
Tommy’s face reddened. Just holding the card brought back so many memories. Stupid, immature, selfish flashbacks of a college season completely wasted.
“Honestly Josie, I used it for a scrap paper and a coaster. I should have paid attention to what you wrote. Guess you wouldn’t be here right now if I had.”
Josie walked over to the window. A crisp orange sunset dropped around the old brick dorm.
“I suppose a Bible verse isn’t exactly what a young man wants to find in his mailbox.”
Tommy gingerly opened the card, ready to split down the middle. How angry he had been to see a Bible verse instead of money. Back then he couldn’t fathom what good a verse would do for a starving college guy. Looking at what used to be his bed, he wished he could turn back time.
“I thought I knew it all just because I was away from home. I thought a lot of things, and I was wrong. Obviously.”
Josie turned away from the sunset and looked her husband’s oldest son straight in the eyes. Although she was a few inches shorter, she made the look work. Tommy’s Adam’s apple bobbed.
“You literally have a clean slate now. This card might be old but the words still are true. Will you live them? I know you’re upset but welcome to real life. You screwed up. You know what? We all do. It’s what you do next is what matters.”
Tommy nodded, the reality of thousands and thousands of dollars of loans in his name due. No degree to show employers. No girlfriend to stand by his side. College had been about fun. His Facebook page told the story. Current status? ‘Tommy is dropping out because of academic failure.’
“I have to work and pay these loans off. What was I thinking switching majors and adding loans when I didn’t even know what I was doing?”
He pounded the desk, sighing. He looked again to Josie.
“Dad’s mad I’m thinkin’.”
“I think in time you both will see it’s more disappointment. He doesn’t want you to make mistakes he did when he was younger. He always thought there was tomorrow, and tomorrow caught up to him and he found it a very solitary place. An unforgiving place full of debt, regrets, and dead dreams.”
Tommy let out a sad laugh. High school graduation sure didn’t boast that life message. Then again, all the speeches exalted wisdom and right choices. Once again Josie’s card gave all the answers he so aggressively ignored. She noticed he was still looking at the words.
“Give me the card.”
He gave her a quizzical glance and noticed her look was still there.
“Yes m’ am.”
Tommy handed the card over. She went over to the desk, worked on the creases, rummaged through her purse, took out something crisp and white, and a pen. He tried to peek over her shoulder but she cleared her throat. Tommy stepped back.
She whirled around, a fresh envelope in her hands.
“It’s the first day of your new life. Have some mail.”
He grinned, not sure what to do.
“So open it already.”
She sang. He nodded. This time he would open the card and surrender his expectations. There would be something far more valuable than money inside. He tore into the envelope because this was his personal do over.
“It’s a card.”
Tommy joked. She rolled her eyes.
The old words from Proverbs 16:9 blended like a masterpiece into the new words Josie penned.
Today you start over the game of life. Take this verse for a spin and you will go far.
‘In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.’
Love, Dad and Josie.
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