A Heart Full of Ketchup Packets

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Just a little thing, he couldn’t have been more than six or seven with dirty blonde hair and big eyes that took in every detail of his surroundings as though his very survival depended on it. Maybe where he came from it did…I don’t know. I didn’t know his other world and had never experienced it. I met him in this world, my world. I was in my twenties and living life like a twenty something year old, with little regard for my environment and nary a worry in the world. My world was full of fast cars, good times, and excess around every corner.

Photo credit: rachelleb.com

Photo credit: rachelleb.com

He entered my world on a Saturday afternoon, with his innocent face and those eyes that told a story of things I had only heard of in stories. I met his parents and older sister for the first time that day as well. We took them to a local restaurant for dinner that evening, and the adults around the table made conversation and future plans for this brave family. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. I noticed he cleaned his plate, savoring the cheeseburger as though it was a feast fit for a king. Between bites, those eyes took in his surroundings. I’m not sure he even heard the conversation. I, myself, was only picking up bits and pieces when I noticed him carefully placing ketchup packets in his pockets. One by one, he slid them to the edge of the table, glanced around and filled his pockets until they looked about to burst. I knew what those pockets felt like because at that moment a blurred vision of a true survivor came to life before me and my heart filled to capacity. I wondered how many ketchup packets would be enough? Did he know? Did he have a number in mind? How many would it take to make his heart as full as his pockets?

No one noticed the change in my emotions, nor the little boy’s actions that caused it. I remained silent, lost in my thoughts only glancing up to find him studying me. After dinner, I stayed behind and walked out with him. I told him he didn’t need to take the ketchup packets, but how do you explain to one so young that they will never go hungry again? How do you convince them that this new world he has just arrived in less than twenty fours ago, is one where ketchup will be presented to him in overabundance? How do you describe a feeling of contentment to someone who has watched everyone around him make do with so much less than my world is accustomed? There are no words, only experiences and actions that in time create the safety net he craved.

That little boy is a grown man now with a wife and two beautiful little girls. He is successful and lives a good life. I’m not sure he even remembers those ketchup packets…it’s been so long. I, however, have never forgotten. Every time I’m tempted to throw in some extra ketchup packets with my order I think of him and his full pockets. My heart fills with pride for the man he has become, and I hold on to those ketchup packets much the same way he did so many years ago. They are my life preservers too. When I think I need more, when I think what I have isn’t enough, I conjure up his ketchup filled pockets and the look of sheer peace that came over him when full pockets meant a full heart. And, I pray that my focus will always be on achieving a full heart…even when my pockets are empty.

Do you have a “ketchup packets” story in your life that serves as a reminder to you?

How Much Stuff Do We Really Need?

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Every year we kick off the holiday season with Thanksgiving, a day when we stuff the turkey, stuff ourselves and give thanks for all the people and stuff in our lives. We’ve barely had time to digest the Turkey before we’re out the door to be the first ones in line to get more stuff to place under the Christmas tree for our family and friends, more stuff to ensure we are the most decorated house on the block, more stuff to find a place for, more stuff to dust, and more stuff to ultimately ignore. When is it enough? When is it too much?

In this video, Father Scott J. Brown references a family in Ethiopia who seems content with twenty-eight possessions in a 360 square foot hut, a very different picture from the average 2500 square foot American household. At what point do we have enough stuff in our lives?

Sarah Book Publishing

Sarah Book Publishing

Scott J. Brown is also a children’s author. His latest book, a must read, tells the story of three kings who face the dilemma of (gasp) having to come up with a personal gift fit for a king when the shops were already closed for the day. Purchase The Gift of You here and share the story with your children this season.