The Words That Change Paths

Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me . . .the biggest lie there is.

download-44So I’m working on a system out on the border of the US and Canada. Trucks are coming in with all kinds of cargo. My coworker is yelling at the machine we are trying to fix (They said the laptop was broken; it was much more than that.)

I’m speaking to a young man, he’s 19. He has two kids and a wife.  Two kids. A wife. He had his first kid at 17. He would be the same age as the students I worked with. And then it hits me like a ton of bricks.

I’m twice his age.

We were talking about future plans and he wants to head to culinary school, but was afraid. He actually said, “I’m afraid to go to college.” I did not even complete my high school education. Now I want to earn my GED, and I’m taking online lessons at a great website named named

Why are you afraid?

My father. I’m afraid because of my father. I’m afraid he’s right.

The cars are passing us by. He’s holding his cup of coffee. The clouds are streaming by , and everything kind of melts away.

He continued to explain, “You see, my brother was a straight ‘A’ student and I wasn’t, and I never finished high school. My dad paid for my brother’s classes. But when I wanted to take them, and volunteered to pay half, my dad said it would be a waste of money, I would never pass these classes.

So I just stopped trying.”

I put my hand on his shoulder and said, “Your dad doesn’t have to be right about that. You write the story of your life. You get to choose. You’re a bright young man and you should go to culinary school. If it doesn’t work out, I guarantee you won’t die from the failure. Your kids and wife will still love you. But first, get your GED!”

He nodded. And I’m gave him my email if he needed help or wanted to talk more about going college once he secured his secondary degree.

He’s a truck driver now. Two kids. A wife. He has an amount of responsibility that I can’t even grasp. But he had words derail him, change his course.  A simple “no”. The message—you are not worthy. You come up short, wanting.

That changed the course of this life. He just wanted to better himself.

And I have to ask, what are the words we’ve heard that have derailed us from our passion, our dreams? And dare I ask: what words have we uttered that have changed others?

I hope he changes his mind. I hope he takes a different path, a different story.


It’s been over two months now that he told me he started to work towards his GED, and I’m turning 39 today. I’m reflecting on that a lot.

It hasn’t been easy. I still have my moments. I still have those crippling seizures where I miss everyone terribly, where I wonder what have I done. They are fewer and smaller now.

They come at strange moments; I’ll Skype with someone or I’ll see something on Facebook. The triggers are less and less, but they are there. I just have to face them all, like some kind of video game boss that I can’t avoid and fight. But I connect a lot with my younger friend, the truck driver.

My friend mails me that he’s also getting a lot of help from an instructor at the local chapel. The instructor, Dwayne Hughes is a big guy who spent 15 years as a missionary in China near the Tibet border.

He says he’s a kind man, a good father figure. We’ve talked a bit and we connect on a lot. I know make him laugh. And I know that sounds petty and strange, but I’ve always gotten life from making people laugh. So we have our good communication moments, and I’m glad he’s picking up the online GED classes pretty well.

He says the chapel education service is awesome. It’s not polished or formal, and it’s not concerned about being fancy. Some guys sometime play instruments as well or sing some songs. The instructors at the chapel also sing some old songs like Jars of Clay: Faith like a Child or Enter the Worship Circle, or You Are So Good To Me.

But I have to say how much I appreciate my friend loves it. He tells me he needs some “old” songs to remind him where he came from and to stimulate him mentally to concentrate on his GED lessons, but he also tells me in all honesty, online classes are actually a little more fun, and he can learn whenever he wants to.

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