Since 2005, with the exception of last year, I have “worked” every Christmas day. I accentuate “worked” because I am lucky enough to have a job that feels more like a hobby than it does labor. I give computers to kids who cannot afford them. What’s not to like? I plan to work some of Christmas morning this year too.
This year is a special though.
Because I wasn’t supposed to be here. In fact, I wasn’t to be anywhere. Not in one piece anyway.
I was supposed to be dead.
Like many dying people, I tried to bargain with God. Whether you think God is The Universe, the dew drop on a spring rose petal, the chair in the corner or in a more biblical sense….I’m not here to start a theological argument with you.
I asked God for one thing.
I told him I needed five years to finish my work, and if he thought my work merited his attention, I would appreciate that time. Five years would give me time to get Reglue set-up so anyone could run it.
What an arrogant little ant I was…thinking that the little thing I do would be noticed by God.
But so far, I think (S)he’s listened. My prognosis changed radically from terminal to Stage 3 in a period of a month. A miracle? Who knows? A team of good doctors and an even bigger team of friends from around the globe probably had as much to do with my initial recovery as anything. A crappy initial diagnosis by an inept doctor could have played into it too. But miracle…or not. I’ll keep that between me and my God.
This past Tuesday I was sitting at my desk doing parts inventory and creating a database when something out of the corner of my eye got my attention. A slight movement by our front door had me standing up, looking more closely at what was right outside. I only have a sliver of viewing area to the outside from my desk.
Standing under the porch awning was a large black man. I could only see his back but from what I could see, he was at least 6’3″ and a good 240 pounds. As I stood to go to the door, he turned toward the door and started beating on it with his fist. It wasn’t locked.
I could see his face now. He was frightened out of his mind.
I ran to the door, expecting him to have been hurt or threatened. When I pushed the door open, he rushed in and positioned himself so I was between him and the door. I looked outside to see what he might be so frightened of. He answered me, without me having to ask.
“Mister, there’s a big dog out there and I am really afraid of big dogs.”
Sure enough, across the street, in the front yard of our neighbor, stood a big yellow Lab. She’d probably lick you to death but that’s about as violent as she’d ever get.
But you can’t soothe irrational fear. You have to take the perceived threat away first.
I invited the young man into the shop and he sat down in a chair in the classroom as I got him some water from the shop refrigerator.
He was a young man, sixteen years old with a linebacker’s build and the disposition of a child. His name is Eddie Baker and he lives with his mom and three brothers in a housing project on the south side of Taylor. Here in small town Texas, there are hundreds of small towns that have a “right” and a “wrong” side of the tracks.
Most folks here would say Eddie and his family lived on the “wrong” side of the tracks.
As he calmed down, he started telling me about how he was going to work after school to help his family out. He starts at Whataburger in the first week of January and he hoped to be able to buy himself a computer.
Really, I thought to myself…this isn’t happening like this is it?
He knew nothing about what we do or how we do it. He was just a young man, terribly afraid of dogs, seeking shelter against that fear.
So I went outside to make sure the dog was not there, went back in and gathered all six plus feet of this manchild and put him in my car. In ten minutes I had him safe and sound at home.
Between Eddie’s mom and me, we’ve arranged for me to come over Christmas morning and set-up Eddie’s computer. He has no idea it’s coming.
It’s going to be a good Christmas Day for me.
3 years and 4 months and counting…
Ken Starks is the founder of the Helios Project and Reglue, which for 20 years provided refurbished older computers running Linux to disadvantaged school kids, as well as providing digital help for senior citizens, in the Austin, Texas area. He was a columnist for FOSS Force from 2013-2016, and remains part of our family. Follow him on Twitter: @Reglue