a story of Melissa

I still don’t know what I’m doing with my life.

Even though I polished up my rest-of-my-college-career academic plan tonight and it looks great.

So instead of thinking about the people who make life hurt and the things that sometimes make my heart sing and the ways that I’ve failed others this week, I’m going to tell you a story.

Once upon a time (in a place a lot closer to you than you might think) there lived a little girl. She happens to have the same name as me, actually: Melissa. I don’t know her last name.

Melissa lived in a little town not too far from the US/Mexico border with her grandparents. I don’t know what happened to her parents. I didn’t get to hear that part of the story. I’m just telling you what I do know. What I did hear.

Melissa’s grandparents weren’t very well off. In fact, they were kind of the opposite of well off. And Melissa was seldom very clean. And Melissa didn’t go to school. (At least, that’s the tale I was told.)

So none of the neighborhood kids liked Melissa very much. Sometimes they wouldn’t even play with her.

But one day a bunch of vans full of crazy Americans showed up, and they swarmed everywhere and tried to talk to everyone in their broken Spanish and they started smoothing the ground and pouring concrete and putting walls together.

And they loved on Melissa.

They gave her piggyback rides and laughed with her and tried to tell her that she was worth so much more than any of the other kids could imagine and more than Melissa’s grandparents could imagine and more than Melissa could imagine.

And Melissa smiled. A little bit. She still had to keep up that tough kid vibe, because life is hard. But there were little smiles.

Then the day started to end and the concrete had been poured and the wall-shells had been stacked and all those crazy Americans got back into their big vans and started to leave.

And when one crazy American girl named Melissa looked out the back window, the only thing she noticed was a little Mexican girl named Melissa sitting off by herself. Crying.

I wish I had a photograph of that moment. Because that moment is one that breaks my heart. And it’s not one that words will ever do justice.

Because all of those crazy Americans who were so good at communicating poorly had forgotten to tell Melissa that they’d be back the next day.

They did come back the next day. And the next. And the next. And Melissa got to go to a VBS where she was told things like ‘Dios se ama’ and taught to say things like ‘Jesus te ama’ and got hugged and snuggled as much as she could stand.

And when they left at the end of the fourth day, everyone was crying because it was an actual goodbye, but maybe it wasn’t because Heaven is going to be one big reunion and maybe we’ll all get to party together forever.

But I don’t remember seeing Melissa. I kind of wonder if she was off by herself again, crying. Like me.

I don’t know where Melissa is now. I don’t know if she remembers that those Americans who showed up that one day had more to say than poorly pronounced, poorly grammaticized Spanish phrases that vaguely inquired after the location of the baño.

But I know that God still loves Melissa, so so much. I know that my heart breaks for a little girl who cried because she didn’t want to be alone again after one day of tasting love.

I don’t understand why this Melissa gets to go to school and get an education and wear clean clothes and go home to a family who is whole and who loves her.

It’s been a hard week in this Melissa’s life, and she is so tired right now. She feels kind of alone and kind of frightened by the future and kind of hopeless. But more than that, she feels incredibly grateful that her problems seem so small in the grand scheme of things.

I want to find my little Melissa, the one who couldn’t quite grasp the fact that we share a name, and wrap her in my arms. I want to tell her again how much she is loved and that nothing she is facing is too big for the God who holds us both.

I don’t know how little Melissa’s story ends.

Maybe I won’t ever.

But I really really hope that someday I’m gonna run into a not-so-little-anymore Melissa in heaven, and she’s gonna be like, ‘Wow, you were really dorky as a freshman; glad you grew out of that,’ and I’ll be like, ‘Well, you were a total punk as a kid; glad you grew out of that,’ and then we’ll hug and I’ll finally know how her story ends.

That’s how I want her story to end.

Please, God, let that be how our stories end.

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A True Story

Once upon a time there was a college student who desperately didn’t want to write a paper.

(That student was/is/will be you.)

And so, because she was in college and she’d shortened up her focus in life to whatever made her happiest for the next half hour, she decided that the paper could wait.

Of course, if she wasn’t writing the paper, then she had to be doing something else. Because she had this desperate need to either be productive or to distract herself from her unproductivity. So she pulled up the internet.

The internet was/is/will forever be full of all kinds of beautiful and not-so-beautiful nonsense.

But she was a college student.

So the only things that mattered were Facebook and video streaming services.

She didn’t have Netflix, because she was too cheap for that, so she used Amazon Prime and streamed some old TV show that made her shudder a little and smile a little and actually accomplished nothing at all except for giving her something to do for almost an hour.

Then the episode ended and she had to find something else to do.

There was still that paper that she didn’t want to write.

But she still was focused on the next half hour, so she closed all the windows pertaining to the paper and pulled up a playlist full of music that she was learning to love. And a blank document so that she could write a story.

This story goes nowhere.

It has no climax.

It is unwilling to acknowledge that it has a moral.

(It does, but don’t tell us. We’re choosing to learn things the hard way.)

The college student doesn’t live happily ever after, but she does manage to live despite her mistakes.

We all manage to live despite our mistakes.

We acknowledge our idiocy and we sometimes shake our heads in rueful amusement and we sometimes choose to do things differently the next time.

But sometimes we just pull up our favorite video streaming service and waste another hour while an unwritten paper stays unwritten.

– Melissa