Oscar’s Gift

One of the many hats I wear is that of a sessional instructor for the local community college. Of the workshops I teach, one is a day long certificate program. It is not a difficult course – in fact most people who take it would probably call it a "no-brainer”. I have been teaching this program for many years and am proud of my almost perfect student success rate. Nonetheless, occasionally someone fails. When this happens, the student has the opportunity to rewrite the exam at a later date. Most people don’t.

Oscar was an exception. He failed miserably the first time he wrote the exam. He scheduled a rewrite and failed again. It broke my heart to think about how he must be feeling. I could only imagine the self talk. I did not expect to see or hear from Oscar again.

Oscar (not his real name) is a big man, probably in his mid-forties, about 300 pounds on a 6’2” frame. In spite of his size, he is one of those people who seem to just blend into the woodwork. Like the old dog at the SPCA, the one lying quietly in the corner, the one with the big sad eyes, the one nobody even notices because they have come for a puppy. I don’t know why Oscar had registered for the program. Perhaps he needed it for a job, or maybe he just wanted to see if he could do it. Though he appeared to be paying attention, I had no way of knowing if he was absorbing the information. But there was something about this big man with the soft brown puppy dog eyes – a kindness, gentleness, and a quiet sadness. Imagine my surprise when Oscar walked into my classroom about a month after his first two failed attempts.

"I’m going to give it one more try,” he said.I had tears in my eyes as I finished marking Oscar’s exam. I did something I do not usually do. I phoned Oscar. A soft, pleasant, friendly voice answered the phone.
"May I speak to Oscar please?”
"Yup, this is him.”
"Oscar, this is Lorraine calling – your instructor from the college.”
I could intuitively see and feel his entire body contract, recoiling like that that of a wounded dog. I sensed that he had been through this before.

"I am calling to congratulate you. You passed the exam! Not many people would have done what you did. Most would have given up after their first or second try. Oscar, you are amazing!” I have thought of Oscar many times lately. January was a tough month for me. Some life lessons I thought I had finally learned reared their ugly heads yet again. Trust issues, money issues, relationship issues – you know, same gift, different wrapping. Could it be that I give up just before the finish line because the race is too hard? How many times have I asked God to send me a clear answer, to show me the way? And how many times have I missed the mark simply because I failed to show up?The truth is that God is showing me the way. I get impatient sometimes because what I really want is for God to hand me a simple set of instructions on how to learn what I need to learn, pass the exam and get on with the next lesson. God doesn’t work that way. God simply asks me to show up and "give it one more try”. I asked for a clear set of instructions and God sent me Oscar.

The call ended with an expression of heartfelt gratitude from Oscar.
I didn’t do anything, Oscar. You did. And Oscar? Thank you.