I remember one of the greatest joys my husband and I experienced as young parents was getting to “see” through the eyes of a child. As our children grew and experienced new things daily, seeing the wonder in their faces, the joy in their eyes, and the surprise of different experiences was a precious treasure. As my sweet friend Mrs. Voyce Park says, it was a “heart gift” they didn’t even know they were giving.
The past two weeks, our family has had the opportunity to experience this again, except this time in a much different way. Our sweet friend Jeff has come to live with us. Jeff has been a “guest” of the state of Texas for the past 18 years. He is the brother of my college roommate, who is my forever friend. Jeff is Native American by birth, and I have known him since we were teenagers. He will be the first to tell you that, while a combination of alcohol and poor companion choices led him to TDCJ, the choices that put him there were his. But two weeks ago, his life changed, and he was granted parole.
Since we knew his release date was right after the first of the year, we left our Christmas tree up and, along with his family, piled gifts underneath the tree…because Jeff hadn’t unwrapped Christmas gifts for 18 years. And unwrap he did; with his family watching via FaceTime, and our family in the room…slowly at first, and then with smiles that rivaled those of any I’ve seen on my children’s faces, we watched this 51 year-old “kid” unwrap until he was chest deep in wrapping paper and grinning from ear to ear. He opened a gift filled with new toiletries, and he stopped with tears in his eyes as he held his new toothbrush. He just stared at it and remarked that he hadn’t had a toothbrush with a handle in 18 years. It was then that I realized how much we take for granted, and how very much Jeff’s world had indeed changed. When his family signed off our FaceTime call, he asked, “So how long has THAT been around?”
In the past two weeks, Jeff has experienced a world that is somewhat familiar, yet altogether different. Try to imagine what it would be like to wake up in a world that is almost two decades ahead of where you left it. There were no iPhones and certainly no Siri. The internet was still new, and Google had just been invented, but it wasn’t yet a verb! Cars with navigation systems, iPads, Bluetooth, Apps…the technology changes alone are mind-blowing!
We’ve simply taken all these changes in stride over the past two decades—but now, they are all new again as we experience them through Jeff’s eyes. And that, Mrs. Voyce, is a heart gift we’ll never forget.
Happy Valentine’s Day ~ Karen