"In a town overrun by tourists each summer it’s amazing how alone I feel. Strangers might be fun to watch as they move down main street on foot, wearing black ponchos provided by cruise ships they arrive in on, dodging raindrops in the rain-forest I call home; however, they’re still strangers and won’t be staying long. This is Juneau, Alaska where only 30,000 people on Earth choose to live.
My name is Grace and this is my 14th summer, the summer where everything changes. Where high school looms before me and I’m equal parts happy and sad; bittersweet my normal. If high school wasn’t enough change, Alaska is a state where people migrate. The hope is my friends who are towed away by parents for a season find their way back; however, many who migrate decide to move away for good.
Alone is how I feel despite going to church regularly and attending Bible Study once a week. I think it’s because I’m cluing into the fact life is all about change; if changes are non-stop, how will I ever know who I am? If I don’t know myself, how is it possible for anyone else to know me? If no one knows me, including myself, how is it possible to ever stop feeling alone?
How are you supposed to get to know others anyway? It’s not like I can spill my secrets at Wednesday night studies when guys and girls coexist side-by-side. That would be too embarrassing! And, it’s not like I can be myself when I’m worried about appearances and how others view me, right?
I wish I could’ve stayed 5 years old. You know who you’re at 5. Your whole purpose is to discover and explore, you don’t have chores, and life’s carefree; you’re loved, and you love, exactly how God made you to be. Life was simple at 5.
Thoughts ramble through my brain like old mining cars on rails; the ride bumpy but, when thoughts are followed through to a tunnel’s end, it’s like finding precious gems. If life was best at 5 then I need to tap into that time. How was it to be carefree? To just love who I saw around me? Maybe that’s the key to unlock the door to a summer worth living for.
First things first, fear doesn’t exist. 5-year old’s have been warned about strangers but they walk up to anyone and everyone and start talking anyway. 5-year-old's are friendly and have no filter. Like the armor of God, I gear up for the day by putting my 5-year-old persona on.Childlike faith, and a childlike heart, are the things of heaven and I’m heaven bound.
I step out in faith and sign myself up to work for God’s glory at the “Glory Days” kitchen. Which is an oxymoron. People are homeless, stopping in for a meal to tide themselves over until their next stop; there’s nothing glorious about subsisting. Every day a struggle. Summer easier than winter; but summer brings its own wave of problems: Gnats, no-see-um’s, mosquitoes galore; devil’s club, and forest foods that look delicious but you’ve got to know what’s edible or die.
The “Glory Days” is set in the middle of main street. Like a blight on humanity. People are scared of those who are homeless, clutching their belongings tighter, holding hands and walking closer together, giving wide berth to disheveled individuals with their stained backpacks and plastic bagged belongings who stand in groups of three or four waiting outside of the “Glory Days” doors. Thing is, most homeless are harmless; and, the blight of humanity is those who walk by without acknowledging them. It’s okay to meet someone’s eyes, to say, “Hi”; some homeless by choice, some by circumstance, but all in the search of the same things: Shelter, hope, love, freedom, and rest.
Serving the homeless their lunch is a good way to count your blessings. I have my family’s house to go to whenever I want. I might be in search of myself, and feel alone in the process, but I don’t have to be lonely. After meals are served, I have an opportunity to grab a bowl of food myself and sit with those nameless faces in the crowd to find out who they are. I’m able to live out that verse in I Timothy where people don’t despise me because of my youth but see in me the
purity of Christ’s love. It’s amazing what simple prayers for others can do, a bridge of hope is formed for each of us to pursue. After our meals are done, we part, going in different directions; but the pursuit remains the same: A better life than the one from which we came.
The second child-like challenge: Smile at everyone! There’s an old song my grandpa listens to, “Make Someone Happy”, its message is simple, “Make someone happy and you will be happy too”. In front of one of the stores in Juneau stands a black bear, on all fours, and close to life-size; a solid, mounted, stuffed animal that’s soft to touch. Many tourists have their picture taken beside it. For most, it’s the closest they’ll get to a bear if the only excursion chosen was disembarking the ship to shop and eat. I plant myself on stairs leading up to the bear, waiting to see who I can take pictures for. Turns out, Asian tourists are the most animated and appreciative, we can’t speak each other’s language but pantomiming is an easy way to communicate.
Fear doesn’t exist, smile at everyone; I’m only as alone as I feel or want to be. Loneliness follows me because it’s true, Juneau is a place of strangers, people funnel in and out and don’t stay long; however, I’ve begun to learn about me. It’s not good to isolate, to wallow in thoughts; I don’t have to share everything, with everyone, but do need to get out and help others. By helping others, I see myself how Christ sees me. I can get stuck in the rut of trying to prove myself to my peers, worrying about what others think, or I can get outside the circles that I’ve
thought define me to expand who I am.
Striving for social standing, worrying about where my footing will land when I reach the high school grounds, isn’t going to help. None of that is who I am. Who I am is found within my actions and by who I choose to represent. Living for Jesus Christ, not all will understand, but it’s in Christ alone I know who I am. I have no fear because He is with me. I can smile through all circumstances because even when sad joy can be found all it takes is thoughts that aren’t fully my own. Leaning on someone greater than myself I can see things differently and not get stuck in the mire of a day. A day is just a day, nothing stays the same, and tomorrow will be different if I make it that way."
The piece you just read through was rejected; however, is one of those rejection responses that writer's keep as encouragement towards their publishing goals.
I submitted "Glory Days", to those at Focus on the Family, in hopes it would be picked up and published within "Brio" their magazine for teenage girls. The piece was liked. The reason for its rejection? Lack of dialogue between one or more persons. Valid reason!
Although, over-all it was liked by the editor who reviewed it she also said I need not re-submit it. However, why the rejection letter (via Email) was a keeper is because it supplied me with feedback that went beyond a sentence or two. In fact, with the encouragement of telling me to try again were also attachments of recent pieces they've accepted for me to use as guidelines when making my next attempt! An invaluable assist.
This was my first foray into writing fiction since I was in my late teens/early twenties. I like "Glory Days", relate to it, and will grow from it.
It's in that same spirit of learning and growth I share this all with you: Focus on the Family is open for submissions! May your words be granted access, may your acceptance help your writer's resume shine, and may doors be opened for you as you continue to write and share what God presses upon your heart.