Summer had come and gone and little Timmy was more than a little disappointed. But not for the same reasons as the other kids. He was back at school and like every September it just felt different. Though it was a new school year, he carried the same old duct taped backpack and torn shoes that now fit just a little tighter.
Timmy had always felt different, even before summer vacation. But now, a season later, little Timmy had grown up some and become a more curious little guy. This year, he was determined to figure out why he felt so different.
Though a little smarter now, little Timmy hadn’t grown much taller over the summer like some of the other kids at school. And that was probably a good thing because the pants he was wearing, like always, were too short from last spring. Mom told him it would be awhile before she could afford anything new. As the oldest of three brothers, he grew up always knowing that there were no hand-me-downs for him.
As she left for work in the early morning hour, Timmy asked his Mother, “Our family is very different isn’t it?” She said “Well I certainly hope so. All families are different in their own special way and it’s something to be proud of.” Timmy wondered why if it was so special, he didn’t feel so proud.
“Now you go help your brothers finish their homework and remember, I’ll be home late after work so be sure to get them to bed early tonight.”
This was what Mom said almost every time she left for her day job. Little Timmy began thinking about how the other kids at school talked about their parents helping them with their homework after the family dinner each night. He’d often hoped that someday his Mom would be able to help with his homework, and that maybe they could have a family dinner, but she was always working. He thought, “We are different.”
The next week was the end of the month and always a time when things around the house seemed especially difficult. But when Mom was there, she tried to make times fun for little Timmy and his brothers with flashlights and candles and an occasional ghost story before bed on her nights off before going back to her other job. Mom said the lights would be off until next payday but it was okay because he had his brothers with him and they could play flashlight games in the dark before bedtime. While they did have fun, he secretly hoped someday he would be able to help keep the lights on all the time. And again, he noticed how his family was just a little different.
The next day at school it was lunchtime. Timmy listened to the kids at the table next to him complain about how their Moms would pack their lunches with “leftovers” and wondered what upset them so much. His family didn’t have leftovers after meals. He could only hope to someday have something like a meatloaf sandwich in his lunchbox like other kids. His lunchbox always seemed to weigh a little less. “That’s different,” he told himself.
The more little Timmy put his mind to it, the more differences he found between his family and other kids’ families. And while his mom said he should be proud, he really tried.
When the teacher asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?,” the kids yelled “Fireman!,” “A nurse!,” “I want to be an engineer!” Little Timmy always hoped someday he would be able to have a job but he had never really thought much about what it might be. In fact, he never really thought much beyond the week ahead, much less about what he’d be in the distant future when he was a grown up. Again, he felt that was a little different from the other kids.
At recess, some kids were petting a scruffy stray dog through the school fence, boasting about how cute their own dogs and cats were and what they’d named them. Little Timmy didn’t have a dog or a cat. His Mom had told the boys that someday they would, but that someday hadn’t come yet. Mom said it was an extra mouth to feed that she couldn’t afford right now, but hopefully at Christmastime. Though many Christmases had already passed, he continued hoping that someday he might open a little wrapped box with a puppy inside on Christmas morning. Now that would be different!
Little Timmy went home that night with his homework. His teacher had told the class to come prepared with an idea for show and tell. After feeding and bathing his brothers and getting them in their sleeping bags, he made his own bed on the sofa. Like most nights in that darkened living room, he waved his flashlight around on the ceiling and drew pictures with the beam of things he dreamed of, like little puppy faces which disappeared as quickly as he drew them. It was at that moment that Timmy came up with the best show and tell idea ever!
His Mom had come home very late from work but Timmy was still awake thinking of his wonderful idea. Though tired, she listened to Timmy describe his show and tell idea and she cried. He didn’t mean to make her sad but she said they were happy tears. “Timmy, nobody hopes and dreams like you. Never stop, Timmy. I have always said you can do anything if you put your mind to it.” Little Timmy smiled, blew out the candle and put himself to sleep.
It was his turn next at show and tell.
He’d waited all day for this.
“So Timmy, what do you have for us today at show and tell?” Little Timmy had already cleared the corner of his desk and arrived at the front of the classroom before she had even finished the question. From the pocket of his high-water pants, little Timmy pulled out a small, white light bulb and held it up for the class to see. A bit puzzled, the teacher asked “So little Timmy, what does the light bulb mean to you?”
Proudly, little Timmy replied, “It’s like an idea!”
“I’ve noticed that my family is different than the other kids’ families, but that being different is okay because it’s really just being normal, but in a different way.”
“I don’t have new clothes or a home-made lunch or a puppy like the other kids, but that’s normal for me. That’s what my family is used to. Like this light bulb, some families shine in ways other families don’t. Either way, all families make light and shine not because of what we have but because of how we love.”
“And it’s okay to be different…. just like everybody else.”
And that day, little Timmy got the only “A” for show and tell.
And Little Timmy was no longer Little Timmy, for he grew a whole inch taller that same day Mom came home with a big barking bow-tied box.