Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Jar: A Short Story (Part 3)

If you'd like to read the first and second parts of the story, click HERE and then HERE. And please join me after the conclusion to learn more about the facts behind the fiction!

The Jar
By Amber Stokes

Continued...

Alice brought her jar of pennies to church that wondrous Sunday when Randy came back. She stayed after church much longer than she usually did, because everyone else wanted to thank Randy for his service and ask him about his experiences. If you and I were there, we would have been able to tell them that Randy really didn’t want to talk about his time in Vietnam. At least not yet.

Finally, Alice was able to approach Randy, tug on his sleeve, and hand him the penny jar. I wish I could tell you that he looked at that jar of pennies and other coins and simply knew how much they were really worth. As it was, he did give Alice a hug and a pained smile. He said, “Thank you,” and, “I missed you.” And then he turned to talk with another person.

Dear Alice, though, wasn’t offended. She had done her part to tell him as best she could that he was remembered and valued. And with all of her life experience, she knew that he would get her message in time. She was right. (I’ve heard Alice usually was.)

For many years that jar sat on Randy’s desk. Alice passed away; Randy got married and started his own family. While he didn’t think of the penny jar very often, he smiled when it caught his eye. He thought of Alice’s hugs and her pockets full of candy.

Randy would never know all the heart that went into that jar of pennies. And as much as I like to pretend I know such things, I really can’t fully comprehend it either. But forty years after he was drafted (I’ll wait if you’d like to do the math)…Randy’s oldest son surprised his father with a trip to Washington D.C. Randy brought the penny jar with him. The whole family went, and as they visited the war memorials, Randy was finally ready to share some of his stories.

I walked with him that sunny, humid summer day to the Vietnam War memorial. It looked like the wall of a trench, covered with names. Grandpa Randy found the names of some of his Army buddies. I cried when I saw silent tears fall down his stoic face. And then he asked me to hand him the penny jar, the one I had been holding ever since we left the hotel. The yellow ribbon was a bit tattered, but it was still there. The pennies were gone, though. Grandpa said that he was saving them in another jar, to share with someone else someday. His knee gave a satisfying pop as he knelt down to place the jar on the ground beneath that multitude of names.

I wouldn’t say the jar was empty, though, despite the missing pennies. If you had seen the light in Grandpa’s eyes and the way the sunlight filled the jar, I think you would have seen what I saw - hope.

The End

Fact vs. Fiction

As I've previously mentioned, this short story is fictional, but inspired by some real elements. As a young girl, I used to attend First Covenant Church, where an older man named Jim Worthen and his wife Evelyn sat in the pew behind my grandparents. Mr. Worthen would bring me candy, and he and his wife always had a smile and a kind word for me. They were so very sweet, and their presence in my life brightened my Sundays.

And then one day Mr. Worthen passed away. And eventually Mrs. Worthen asked me to come and visit her. She gave me a jar filled with pennies and a few other coins, telling me that Mr. Worthen had been filling it and saving it for me.

It was a gesture that touched my heart - to think that he had been saving up those pennies especially for me! And that jar of pennies still sits in my room back at home, a beautiful reminder of the power of kindness and thoughtfulness. I certainly couldn't comprehend when I was younger, and I still can't today, just how much heart went into that simple gift.

As for the other parts of this story, my own grandpa served in the Korean War, and my daddy served in the Vietnam War. I had the opportunity to see both of those war memorials a couple of summers ago, and it was certainly a moving experience. Below are some pictures I took of the Vietnam War memorial:

While "The Jar" is definitely a work of fiction, and I claim sole responsibility for any mathematical or historical errors, I hope it's foundation in real life will inspire you.

Writing this story for Thanksgiving, I'm reminded of how much I have to be thankful for...

The brave military men and women who sacrifice so much for our freedom.

Family and friends who surround me with love.

The simple but profound gift of a jar of pennies.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? And is there a gift that has blessed you, with a story behind it that will bless others?

10 comments:

Julie said...

What a beautiful story Amber, the true parts and the fictional parts!

Julie@ My Only Vice

Gwendolyn Gage said...

I loved this story, Amber! It's a beautiful, moving tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, and those they left behind. I hope you will continue to write! God bless you and I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Faye said...

I really enjoyed it :) Lovely conclusion. Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Amber S. said...

Julie,

Thank you! :) I'm hopeful that this story will serve as just a small way of passing along the gift that Mr. Worthen gave to me.

And since I just got home this evening for the Thanksgiving break, I'm able to see my jar of pennies again. :)

Hope you have a great Thanksgiving!

~Amber

Amber S. said...

Gwendolyn,

I really appreciate your encouraging words throughout this week and ever since I met you. :) Thank you for your friendship!

Best wishes for your writing, as well, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving! God bless you, too! And may the Lord bless all our military men and women, as well as their families!

~Amber

Amber S. said...

Faye,

I'm so glad! Thank you for taking the time to read the story. :) Hope you and your family have a happy Thanksgiving, too!

~Amber

Linda said...

I am extremely grateful for my two sweet nephews, Jakobi and Terrance they are the joy of our lives!

Amber S. said...

Linda,

Family is such a blessing - and I imagine your two nephews must be very precious gifts indeed! :) God bless you and yours!

~Amber

Koala Bear Writer said...

Both the fiction and the nonfiction are beautiful stories! I liked the way that the narrator inserted little comments in the story and then appeared in it at the end. :) Nice work.

Amber S. said...

Koala Bear Writer,

Aww, thank you so much for your kind words! Again, I really appreciate you taking the time to read the story, and I hope you were encouraged by it. :)

~Amber