by Harold Spriggs
My life was transformed in 2004, when I was 15 years old on a mission trip with my church youth group. We were in Kansas City, Missouri, building the foundation of a house for Habitat for Humanity. I was very shy then.
Halfway through the week and halfway through one day, I was tired. We were working in hot sun, loading rebar from a warehouse into our pickup truck for our worksite. After the truck was loaded, I jumped up into the rear with my friends. At the building site, I was about to leap from the back of the truck when our pastor began to back up. I lost my balance and fell hard on the blacktop.
For a moment, I wondered if I’d died. When I got up, a man nearby on his front porch laughed at me. That was hard to hear; my self-esteem fell, too. The rest of the day I worked with my head a little lower than usual and didn’t say much.
After work, we returned to the church where we were staying for dinner. Then the girls in our group showed us a bag system for leaving encouraging notes to each other. That night I stayed up late in the kitchen, working on notes to my friends. Lauren, whom I’d known for a year, sat next to me and asked how I was doing.
I could tell she really cared, and began saying more about my feelings than I expected. I was discouraged about falling earlier that day, and remembered my aunt Marion, who had died a year earlier after falling down her basement stairs. With Lauren keeping me company, I cried.
Once I calmed down, Lauren told me some things I’d longed to hear. She said, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for that is in the future. Worry about this minute, what is going on now. It’s OK to let your guard down every now and then to open up to me and the rest of our group. You’d feel a lot better if you would. It’s not going to be easy to say goodbye to you at the end of this week, but I know our friendship will last. You’re a great kid, Harold. You just have to find yourself, and accept yourself the way you are.”
That Friday night, our last in Kansas City, I took Lauren’s advice. I told the group about my Aunt, and how much I missed her. For the first time, I felt better, like everything would be OK.
I was really thinking about running away that Friday night. I didn’t think anyone wanted me around, so I was going to run. I look back now, and know I would have regretted it all my life, and may have ended up worse off, possibly in jail.
Just when I wanted to disappear out of hurt and embarrassment, someone helped me reach out to others. Thank you, Lauren, your lesson has stayed with me ever since.