Wednesday, December 16, 2009



As I entered a small store in our little town I was greeted with “Hi, how you doing?” by a small man who I will call T. J. to protect his privacy.

“Just fine T.J., how are you today?”

“I’m ah, ah fine.” He responded then smiled brightly as he held the door open for me and offered me a shopping cart to put my work materials in.

As I went about the job I was there to do I thought about T.J. and what I knew about him. It was surprisingly little. I thought back to when I first moved here going on 13 years ago and how two different people “warned” me about T.J. being a little different.

Therefore, the first time he approached me I was a bit on guard not knowing what they meant, until he spoke. Yes, T.J. is a little different. He’s an honest caring soul. He likes everyone and strives hard to make sure everyone likes him. He is helpful, caring, and gentle. A rare commodity in this day and age.

Over the years I have had many conversations with T.J. the words spoken are often the same. We speak about general things, the weather, his new rings, his health, and the nice people of our small town. The conversations are always short, he never wants to be a bother. He is a true gentleman, he holds doors for everyone, and offers to carry packages for you. He is trusted by everyone that knows him. He generally cannot remember your name. To him I am the nice lady with the pretty dog that rides in my big pickup to the post office. He remembers the dog and tells me “You have the dog with two different eyes when he sees me.

I always respond “Yes, you are right T.J. she has one brown eye, one blue one.” He smiles and says “That’s uh, uh right.” Then smiles and says “She’s a good dog, pretty too.” This makes me smile too. I find him to be refreshingly different and I like his priorities in life. A nice dog is important. After the exchange of a few pleasantries he will say “Bye-bye now” and we will move on our separate ways.

As I set about my task at hand I heard the cashier of the store ask T.J. to let her know if anyone came to the cash register to be checked out, then reminded him he was indoors and he might want to take off his jacket. She does so with tenderness in her voice.

T.J. said “Yes, Ma’am” and immediately took off his jacket, neatly folds it and lays it in the small shopping cart behind him, where it would not be in anyone’s way. He, as always, is dressed in clean well pressed clothes, a button down shirt over a white t-shirt, both of which are tucked into his jeans which are held firm at his waist with a snug fitting belt.

Then he stationed himself at the door where he could see the cash register and still open the door for all that entered or exited. Each person was greeted with the same phrase “Hi, how you doing?” Then offers them a shopping cart, which he took out of the cart que for them.

As they left he would say “Thank you for coming.” When someone approached the register to be checked out he would leave his post just long enough to go to the front of the aisle that the cashier was working on to say “You have a customer.” Then immediately back to the door. He never left his post. He put up the shopping cart for the customer when they were finished with it. Then held the door open for them so they could exit easily telling them "Bye-bye now."

As various town folks came and went from this small store each would greet T.J. with a kind word. All called him by name in a kind voice. Some offered rides to different locations and activities with the local churches and school, for T.J. does not drive. Some inquired about his health, others it was simply a kind word. All were rewarded with a bright smile as he responded in his slow precise speech.

I mused as I watched these activities and thought about how many hundreds of times I had seen them repeated. Not just at this store, because he did not work there, he simply volunteered his services. I had seen time and time again all over the tiny town shop keepers, bank and postal employees, send him on small errands. Perhaps to deliver a  note or package to another shop keeper, to pick up a carry out from the local Mom and Pop burger joint or get change from the bank. He sweeps up here and there and always with that bright smile shining. All know and trust T.J. and yes, we all love this special needs man in our own way. He is after all T.J. We would not be the same without him in our lives. He has enriched all of our souls.

We are blessed to have him here in our little town. He shows us that goodness comes in all shapes, sizes and abilities. T. J. thrives here because we are a small town. He can walk safely to and from where ever he goes without a “guardian”. He can live independently and have pride in doing so.

Gray is showing in T.J.’s dark hair now, it makes me wonder how old he is. I know he’s had some heart trouble and cannot imagine our little town without him. I pray we will be blessed with him for a long time yet, because we as a town need the hope T.J. holds for all of us.

He asks nothing of any of us, and gives us all so much every day.

Yes T.J. is different, and I thank the Lord he is because he shows us the true meaning of God’s love and Christmas all year round.

Jan who is very thankful to have met T.J. that bright fall day so many years ago in OK

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