Had great fun this past Wednesday chatting with author and very sassy, commonsense country girl Teresa Hardister.
Her book, Uniquely Nobody, has garnered a lot of attention and for good reason.
Made up of 33 essays and short stories from her own life growing up a country girl, she takes the reader on a journey that’s funny, touching and above all else, honest.
I grew up with a country family. My grandmother raised her own produce. She would make a fantastic Sunday dinner – always with the withering caveat that “I just don’t think I can cook anymore. This probably isn’t any good….” And of course, it was delicious every time.
Teresa lives and tells those stories. This is common sense, this is life.
Here’s an excerpt, with her permission, from her book “Uniquely Nobody”:
Chapter 7: “Clint“
I was watching TV today and saw a popular music video. I had seen it in passing but never really sat down and paid attention until today.
The premise for the video is that the young, beautiful woman has fallen in love but not with a typical, Greek god looking man that we usually see in media portrayals of love.
She has fallen for someone different. A man who doesn’t scream perfect!
He makes her laugh. He makes her smile, and most of all, he is sincere about his feelings and his dedication for her.
We all come in different shapes and sizes, colors and backgrounds.
That doesn’t make us unlovable. It makes us human.
What a boring world we would live in if we all looked and acted the same.
I am very grateful for the people in my life who saw past my imperfections and gave me a chance.
I would have missed out on some incredible people if I had only accepted them based on their differences compared to me.
I am no better than anyone. None of us are better than another. It is often too easy to dismiss someone because they aren’t like us.
I can’t help but think back to Clint. He was nine years old, the same age as my younger son when I met him.
I was working for a local church in their summer program for school- aged children. It was in the 1990’s before I was ever married.
I looked down in the first day and saw him sitting in his bright, red wheelchair.
I won’t lie. It scared me! I didn’t want him to know my fears, and I hoped he couldn’t read my thoughts.
At the same time, I felt like kicking myself for planning activities for the kids that I realized at that moment he wouldn’t be able to do.
His smile was as bright as the shiny red paint on his chair. I knelt down in front of him to become eye level.
My heart raced as I gave him a smile in return.
We clicked and from that day on. Clint was my buddy.
He taught me so much about living and growing up.
He changed my life; he changed my way of seeing things.
He brought me down to his eye level so I could see things through his sparkling blue eyes.
His chair never got in his way, or mine.
We took a field trip to a burger place with an outside playground, complete with a tower and a ball pit.
He watched as his friends played, laughed and did what most kids take for granted. They ran, slid, and bounced. I watched him. My heart ached for him. He was laughing as he watched by the picnic tables. I am sure, in his mind, he was dreaming of joining in, but he remained content with watching.
I went to him, trying to keep a straight face, and I told him to come with me. He looked almost fearful as I proceeded to remove his shoes.
Our eyes met and at that moment, I looked into his heart, and even more importantly, he looked into my soul.
His body trembled as I told him to put his arms around my neck and hang on tight. His tiny frail limbs clutched my neck. I gave him a sneaky smile to ease his mind, and before he could even ask what in the world I was doing, I made a plunge with Clint attached to me into the massive ball pit.
He squealed! I cried.
I placed him smack dab in the middle and invited his friends to come play. He was so happy. He was just like them, his lower body covered in plastic, brightly covered play balls. He was just another kid, and something he always wanted to be.
His laughter is a sound I will never forget. It was pure, it was ecstatic.
After his long stint in the ball pit, I retrieved him. I saw his eyes full of disappointment. I told him this time he really had to hang on tight. He perked right up, he agreed.
I carried him across the swinging kiddie bridge. And up the ladder, and then finally to the spot I had wanted him to see. The location atop the play equipment, high above everyone, I placed my friend in his castle tower on top of the tunnel.
I came down so I could watch him. He waved at everybody, again squealing with laughter as he saw things from a view he had never had.
I looked over at his mother who went with us on all our trips so she could transport him, and I got chills as I watched the tears of joy stream down her face.
Clint and his mom exchanged many waves as Clint sat above his kingdom adoring his new view of the world.
He clung to me one more time as we made our way back down; I had one more thing in mind.
This time I held his waist, both of us facing the same direction.
Never in my life has sliding down a lumpy, bumpy slide ever been more meaningful. He had tears. I saw them but I said nothing. I knew what they meant. It meant that he was allowed a break. He was allowed to forget his legs didn’t work. He was allowed to be something he wanted to be so badly, a kid.
You might be thinking, “Oh, how sweet of me to do that for him.” No! No!
How wonderful of Clint to open my eyes and to make me think of ways to always include everyone no matter their condition or situation.
Sweet Clint passed away last year, and since his passing I can’t remember a day I haven’t thought of him.
I am so very thankful he came into my life and welcomed me into his.
It saddens me that that young man is no longer with us. He is in my heart and his memory will always be near to me to remind me of the lessons he taught me.
What if I had judged him by appearance?
What if my fear had controlled me and I had not let this beautiful, little boy into my life?
I would not be who I am today.
He taught me in his short life that outward show isn’t everything. That real, true beauty lies within. It is the gorgeous soul inside us that defines our real appearance.
I am sure Clint would have loved to run, skip, swim or simply walk like everyone else.
He couldn’t so he gave the world the best he had, himself.
Nothing fake, nothing rehearsed, nothing but goodness and kindness.
His inner self made him one of the most beautiful people I have ever known.
In all my years I haven’t run across another person who taught me more about people and life than him.
Thank goodness Clint saw past my imperfections and called me his friend.
Don’t judge a book by its cover; you will miss the most awesome story ever written if you allow shallow judgments to make your choices.
Give people a chance; they may be different than you and that is the best part.
Look past your own hang ups and see the real beauty in people. You might come across someone who changes your life.