Last weekend I had my one and only book signing before Christmas. With the exception of one awesome fan who was waiting for me when I showed up, it was completely uneventful. I only signed the one book from the one fan. There were lots of people in the store, but none of them was interested in my book. I actually had one lady stop in front of my table, point at the book, and say, "Oh, are you the author?" I nodded and smiled. "Yeah, I read this book," she said, still pointing. Then she shrugged. "I kinda liked it. It was okay." My smile froze. "Thanks." Thanks a lot.
After an hour and a half of sitting there, doing nothing, I thought, "What a waste of a Saturday afternoon. I have a family to be with and plenty of other things to do." So I bailed and drove home in my husband's little beat-up old Honda Civic. About a mile from home I realized that I had been feeling lots of strange bumps in the road. I pulled over and discovered that I had a flat tire. So I called my husband and he came and picked me up. Later we pulled the tire off the car and I took it to get repaired. But it was not repairable, because I had driven on it way too far while it was flat. (As in, the whole way home from the bookstore. Sheesh.)
So this week I've been driving my husband to work while we work on getting a new tire for his car. And yesterday as I was driving back home, I noticed a kid with a bike standing in the cold by a gas station. I stopped at a red light and watched him turn his handlebars while the front tire spun at strange angles. He was all alone, and seemed to have no immediate intention of moving from that spot. I pulled over and asked him if he needed help with his bike. He told me that he thought he just needed a wrench to fix it, but then he realized that it was broken. And it was. The metal shaft that connected the handlebars to the front tire was completely broken in two. It made the bike impossible to even push--I had to pick it up to move it. I asked him where he lived, and he pointed to the south, but then said, "But I'm on my way to school."
I'm a mom of four kids, and I have always taught my kids not to get in a car with a stranger. But I asked him if he wanted a ride to school and he said yes and thank you right away. So I put his bike in the back of my minivan and introduced him (Isaac) to my four-year-old Jacob and my little white dog Buddy. (I guess we looked like pretty safe strangers.) Isaac didn't say much as I drove him to school, but I learned he was in 8th grade. And I noticed that he was wearing a light jacket in 30 degree weather. His jeans had holes in the holes--his entire knees were exposed, and then some. I dropped him off after he assured me that he had a way to get his bike home. And I watched him struggle to carry his broken bike into the school and felt a tug on my heart.
This morning I watched for Isaac as I drove my husband to work again. And just when I had given up hope of seeing him, I caught a glimpse of him in his blue jacket. He had a small child on his shoulders and another one running alongside him. As I watched, he held out a hand to the running one. I couldn't stop because of traffic, and when I turned around, I couldn't find him again, but I did see a daycare center close to where he had been walking. When I got home I called his school and talked to the secretary about him. I told her that I wanted to get him a new bike and maybe a coat, and since I didn't know his last name, I wanted to make sure I could get it to the right boy. She told me she knew exactly who he is, because he brought his broken bike into her office. She also told me that he was in a really bad situation at home. I told her about finding him on the corner, and how it looked like he had no adult he could call for help. "He doesn't right now," she said. "He doesn't have an adult at home." His mom was in the hospital, and his two older sisters worked during the day. She said that anything I could give would be much needed and appreciated.
I wish I was in a position to pull out my checkbook and give him and his little siblings everything they needed. I'm not. Not yet. But I have dreams of changing the world, even if it's only one person at a time. And a wonderful reader read about Isaac on Facebook and offered to buy him a new bike. She has also been so generous as to buy a bike lock and tire sealant and a gift card for presents. I am going to buy a coat and gloves for him. And I'm going to call the secretary again tomorrow and find out what his siblings might need.
And here's what I think about fate. I think about that lousy book signing and the flat tire and the fact that I have to buy a new tire just weeks after my husband totaled our old minivan and the million other things that have cropped up as expenses for our family right before Christmas. But then I think about how that flat tire put me on the right road at the right time to find and help Isaac. And I think that sometimes good fortune comes to us in disguise, and that there is always something to be grateful for.
If you have dreams of changing the world, like I do, you are welcome to join me in this effort to help out this young boy, who surely has had to grow up much faster than any child should. I don't know how to ask you to trust me, just as I didn't know how to ask Isaac to trust me when I offered him a ride to school. But if you choose to trust me, I will use whatever funds I receive to buy Isaac and his siblings some clothes (especially warm ones) and a few toys for Christmas. And when I deliver them to his school, I will give him a card with all of your names signed on it. To make a donation, please go to paypal and send your desired amount to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can send a check to me at 726 Fox Hollow Rd. North Salt Lake, UT 84054. Thank you!
EDIT: I have just spoken with the director of the Family Support Center for Northwest Middle School, which Isaac attends. She told me that they have many families in need and a very careful financial monitoring system where they can allocate funds to children in need and provide receipts for purchases. Any money I have left over after providing for Isaac and his siblings I will donate to their Family Support Center. It will help children who don't have socks, who don't have money for milk or eggs, or who won't have a Christmas otherwise.