I received an early Christmas present today. I was leaving Walmart and as I walked past the checkout stands, there stood Tyler. Now, let me explain. My first year at the school that I retired from, Ty was in the sixth grade. He was a special little guy. He had a hard time sitting still, and didn't learn too well, but he put forth so much effort. He and I connected that year. I helped him with his math and English. He rewarded me with effort.
When Tyler moved up stairs to the 7th grade hall, he and I became closer because he spent time in my study hall. He continued to struggle with English, but math finally started making sense to him. He also got interested in origami. He devoured book after book about the subject and became proficient at many of the harder folds. He was always stopping in my room to show me his latest creation. (His biggest feat was making a crane with a 36 inch wing span. It hung in my room for two years, until the fire Marshall deemed it unsafe to have it hanging so close to the ceiling. Prof took it to Montana when she moved there and it hung in her room until it was so faded that it just needed to be pitched.)
As Tyler matured, he became tall and thin and turned into a natural runner. During his career in HS, he set records in cross country and track. He also told me that he finally discovered that the words on the pages in the textbooks finally meant something.
Ty's mom and dad were divorced many years ago, and he lived with his mom and two sisters. His family was one of the first families to have a home built by Habitat for Humanity. I got well acquainted with Ty's mom during his high school years. They had no car, and she was a regular rider on our transit bus when I drove for them.
Tyler graduated on time from HS, and even tried community college. He finally joined the Army. I have kept track of Tyler through his mom and sisters. He is doing well in the Armed Services. Which brings me back to the present situation.
Tyler saw me and came at me with arms extended. I stuck out a hand to shake his, but he said,"I want more than a hand shake. I want a hug!" There in Walmart, in front of many passersby, Tyler gave me the most heartfelt hug. He towered over me by about 6 inches, but the smile was still the same.
As we walked out of the store together, I turned to Tyler and said to him, "Thank you for serving our country and keeping us safe."
Tyler, said to me, "Mr. F, I am the one who should be thanking you. Without your friendship and guidance, I wouldn't have been able to do what I am doing. So, thank you."
Like I said, Christmas came early for me today.