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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Dropout (05/12/11)

TITLE: Visitor
By Graham Starling


“There's always one isn't there?”

The words were uncharacteristically harsh for a Sunday morning and I turned to see who had uttered them and towards whom they were directed.

The who was an elderly woman with a sour expression speaking to a matching companion, both of them looking for all the world as if they sucked lemons professionally. Why is it, I mused as they nodded their shared condemnation of all things unholy, why is that being critical of others twists so much natural beauty out of a face?

Beyond them was the whom. Grantley Statham; hair uncombed and three days' growth of stubble on his chin, a shirt that had made the journey from washing basket to his back without passing near anything so conventional as an iron, threadbare jeans with paint spots and a pair of grubby trainers to finish of the ensemble. Definitely not his Sunday best.

I remembered the original report on this one. A couple of years ago he'd been an active member of the church, heading up the youth ministry and often playing guitar on a Sunday morning. Then his wife and youngest child had been killed senselessly in a road traffic accident. A lorry's brakes had failed and it had run through a red light, straight into the side of her car. Grantley had been left with a three year old son and a five year old daughter to raise on his own.

There had been a recent addition to the report, which was why I was here this morning.

“Struggling to hold things together. Working short hours to look after his kids. Savings all but gone. Lies awake most nights crying when he thinks no-one is watching. Hasn't picked up his Bible in over a year. Recent prayers consist of yelling at God and little else.” Not promising, but then I'm here to obey, not to judge. “He needs a friend. Someone to whom he can pour out his feelings before they poison him any further.”

I look around the crowded hall. Most people are talking to one another, catching up with friends they haven't seen all week, oblivious to the pain in their midst. One man sits alone and undisturbed as he reads, centred in his own bubble of peace. I reach out and touch him gently on the shoulder and he raises his eyes just as Grantley walks past with two fractious children. I can see the cogs begin to grind, all but hear the silent prayer that goes up. Some people don't need much to nudge them along.

I stretch my wings and in a moment I am back in His presence.

“He seems so far gone Lord, is there any hope for him?”

“Give him time Michael, he is far better than you know.” There are tears in Father's eyes. “I haven't given up on him, and I never will.”

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Karen Deikun05/19/11
Loved this line: "...why is it that being critical of others twists so much natural beauty out of a face?" How true. How well put. I enjoyed this story. It brought tears to my eyes, too.

Sara Harricharan 05/21/11
I really, really liked this. WOW. You got me with the ending, I didn't see that twist coming, but it was beautiful. I loved how the title fit it when I had figured it all out. Very, very nicely done. This has such truth inside that is so easy to forget sometimes because of how much a daily routine and necessities are ingrained into the human mind. This was beautiful though. I absolutely LOVED it.
Charla Diehl 05/24/11
Sad, thought provoking and inspiring all at the same time. My heart ached for this young man and his kids and was hoping the MC was a friend (possibly female) who was going to reach out to this hurting family. I was surprised by the spiritual MC, but found the ending comforting when I gave this a second read.
Lisa Johnson05/26/11
Maybe chalk it up to being up all night at work, and reading these stories now that I am home... I, too, had to give this a second read to "get it" but once I realized who your MC was... all I could think is "wow!"
Congratulations on your level and EC placement.
Andrea Willard 08/23/11
Graham Starling you have captured the Father's grace. Well done. Congratulations on third place in the Master's catagory.