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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Help (02/20/06)

TITLE: The Enabler
By Beth Muehlhausen


The Enabler

Tracy walked along the busy street, anticipating another encouraging breakfast hour at “The Silver Teacup” with her friend, Luanne. She stumbled over a raised sidewalk crack, and clutched the harness of her faithful guide dog, Rex. The fingertips of her other hand swept a nearby wall, confirming her position.

Luanne approached from the opposite direction through the early morning light. ““Hi Trace and Rex! Blueberry muffins, here we come!”

“No muffins for you, Rex, you’re on a diet!” Tracy laughed, as they slipped through the door. “Under the table, boy, and DOWN.”

Rex obediently slid into position, settling his handsome head on his paws with a loud sigh. Luanne visited the counter and returned with coffee mugs and monstrous pecan-streusel-topped muffins.
“How ‘r you, Lou? Wow, this stuff smells GREAT,” Tracy said as soon she heard the tray slide across the table.

“I’m fine – nothing new, really.” Luanne visually searched her friend’s features: curly blonde hair, prominent rosy cheeks, and gorgeous smile. “And you?”

“Well, those kids – man, they’re full of energy! And some of them….” Tracy’s voice trailed off momentarily. “They just need someone to believe in ‘em, you know?”

Although totally blind, Tracy taught English in a public high school. When she needed help, she asked for it. Whenever able, she offered support to staff members and students, even when it was not expected. Tracy set a standard for her department by consistently seeking out the underdogs in her classes and inspiring them with fresh doses of confidence.

“So what’s up? Who’s your latest target?” Luanne asked as she sat down and positioned her feet around Rex.

“Jim…I think I told you about him last week. He’s smart, but not motivated. He expects failure, Lou. So yesterday, just as the bell rang. I said, ‘Jim, come over here a minute’.”

Tracy lowered her voice, as if sharing a secret. “I told him he was a very good writer…his grades suffer only because he ignores some assignments, and others are late. I said I’d like to enter his work in a regional contest.”

As she picked up her muffin, Tracy added, “I heard his feet shuffle on the linoleum, then he cleared his throat…embarrassed, big time.”

She nibbled a tiny crumb, and continued. “He said, ‘Gosh, a contest? Nah, I’m lousy…pick someone else.’”

Luanne stared at Tracy and mumbled through a mouth full of streusel. “What did you tell him? Is he really a good writer?”

Tracy swallowed her own bite of muffin, and replied, “His work’s not exceptional, but solid. He’s definitely overdue for some sort of recognition. Jim has a tender heart down underneath that depressed exterior…he’s just itching to give it a voice…if someone will believe in him.”

“And that someone…that would be you?” Luanne asked.

Tracy curled her finger over the edge of her mug to test the temperature of her coffee, and then took a careful sip. “Low achievers have hidden talents…they just don’t know how to discover and develop them.”

“What’s the plan? Will you require Jim to enter the contest?”

Tracy paused, staring blankly into space. “I asked him to meet me after school today. I’m going to tell him about Someone who believes in me; Someone who enables excellence.”

“You mean you’re going to witness? At school? NO!?! Really? Will you get in trouble?”

At the word “no” Rex lifted his head and looked at Luanne with questioning eyes, then plopped his jaw on his paws again.

“Lou, I’m sick and tired of helping kids on someone else’s terms. I figure it’s after hours; I’ll be fine. A teacher took a risk like this with me, years ago…you know that story.”

Luanne brushed sticky crumbs from her fingers and wiped her mouth with her napkin. “So what do you plan to say, exactly?”

Tracy gripped her mug with both hands until her knuckles turned white, and then looked up as tears filled her blind eyes. “I’ll tell him the truth, Lou. I’ll tell him I cry out to God every day. I’ll tell him I’d fail…I’d be in government housing and on welfare…except that the Lord intervenes…every day. And then…” Tracy’s voice cracked with emotion. “I’ll ask Jim if he’d like Jesus to enter in his life…and help him write a contest entry...from his heart.”

Luanne leaned across the table expectantly. “Wow…I’ll pray…the Lord will give you the right words…”

The Holy Enabler looked with favor on His servants at “The Silver Teacup.”

“Grace and peace, ladies...”

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This article has been read 1133 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Laurie Glass 02/27/06
I was all teary-eyed by the time I finished this one. What concern and courage are displayed here by one of God's faithful servants. I was "right there" in this setting - eating a muffin and listening to the words of an inspiring teacher. Her attitude is a great reminder to us all.
Steve Clark02/28/06
Wonderfully written! I love the way you showed the small nuances of a blind person's challenges. The raised concrete that is just enough to cause a stumble, but not enough to fully embarrass with a fall; the finger around the tea cup, the dog's behavior. Well done.

Would like to see this expanded into a short story with more exposure on the battle lines between church and state, right and wrong, leadership and inspiration, and Jim's success through Christ. I can imagine it, but would love to see how you would "show" it to me.
Carla Feagans02/28/06
Great story, very well-written. The details you included really brought the story to life.

I was a little confused by "confirming her position" in the first paragraph until I discovered she was blind and realized it was the perfect description.

I really enjoyed eavesdropping on this conversation. I agree, this would be great to expand into a longer story.

One teeny critique - I was distracted when they anticipated blueberry muffins and then bought another kind instead. Minor, I know!
david grant03/01/06
One of this week's best!

Funny, the story could be mine, at least some of it.

I was an underachiever getting D's in high school until a teacher took an interest and gave me an "A" on an essay. Turned my life around!
Hope you're a teacher, and this is what you do.
Jan Ackerson 03/02/06
Really nice, and I really like your last two lines!
Suzanne R03/04/06
I liked the last lines too. I was disappointed about the blueberry muffins, but that's just a small thing. Lovely concept.
Beth Muehlhausen03/05/06
This is too funny - two comments on the blueberry muffins! They WERE blueberry muffins, but with a pecan-streusel topping! LOL This was so obvious to me (as an ex-bakery owner) but obviously threw my reading audience for a loop!!! Chuckle.... :-D