Jerry was only five years old when Poppa moved in with his parents and his sisters in their little house in the burbs. And although Poppa was old, Jerry took an instant liking to the idea of having him around each day. Both of his parents worked, and so when Jerry raced off the school bus after a morning in Kindergarten, Poppa had managed to prepare somewhat of a lunch for them both and always had a conversation ready.
Jerry was like any typical five year old. He had questions and lots of them. Poppa was his perfect conversationalist, because not only did he have the patience to listen to all of Jerry’s questions, he had years of wisdom under his belt to impart on such a young formative mind. Jerry had the mind to pay attention and learn from his Poppa.
Jerry was particularly bothered by another boy in Kindergarten that rode his bus, named Bradley. Jerry didn’t quite have that quirky kid figured out and because he was just a little bit different, Jerry didn’t really know what to make of the boy. He wanted to be his friend and his attempts to friend the boy proved to go nowhere. It was because of this, Jerry told his Poppa over lunch that he hated Bradley.
Poppa was having none of that. He took the time to explain to Jerry that you couldn’t just hate a boy because he was different. You had to get to know him and he suggested that Jerry invite him after school for some lunch. Jerry was reluctant at first, but a few days and a few conversations later, Poppa had finally convinced Jerry to invite over Bradley.
The first time, Jerry attempted to talk to Bradley about asking his mother if it was alright to come over, Bradley looked at Jerry in bewilderment and ran away without saying a word. Hurt, Jerry raced home to tell Poppa that Bradley hated him. Poppa assured him this was not the case. They sat down to lunch to eat, and Jerry noticed that Poppa had prepared three lunches that day. Jerry sat across from the empty chair and ate lunch silently, as it seemingly mocked him.
Poppa knew Jerry was bothered and encouraged him to keep trying with Bradley. “Don’t give up on him,” Poppa would say, “Tell we have an empty chair waiting for him.” Jerry wasn’t so bold the second time around, but he eventually asked Bradley if he wanted to come over for lunch. This time Bradley answered him with, “not today,” and walked away.
This upset Jerry even more! Rejection isn’t something that Jerry was good at dealing with. Poppa once again had three lunches prepared and the empty chair sat there mocking him once again. Jerry ate in silence as he was reminded why it sat empty once again.
This whole cycle of inviting Bradley, getting rejected, Poppa encouraging him to try again and Jerry getting rejected once again, happened over and over and over. Jerry found the idea of ever being Bradley’s friend hopeless. And it seemed like for weeks, the empty chair sat there teasing him every single day at lunch time. He questioned whether there was something wrong with him and not Bradley until one day, after Bradley told Jerry “no” , there was a knock at the door. Poppa answered it and Bradley’s mother had paid a visit. Jerry, figuring he was in trouble hid behind, the door while he listened to his Poppa speak.
“I want to personally thank Jerry for inviting Bradley to lunch each day.” her voice was soft and sincere. Jerry peered his forehead around the corner.
“You see Bradley has trouble communicating with the other kids and he’s terribly shy,” she continued, “and I just wanted Jerry to know he comes home every day smiling talking about his new best friend Jerry.” Jerry seemed shocked at this revelation because they hadn’t even had more than a two –three sentence conversation. “It gives me hope that one day Bradley will break out of his shell and get the courage to have lunch with his new best friend.”
Poppa said goodbye and shut the door. He made only two lunches again that day and yet he still pulled up the empty chair. This puzzled Jerry and he quietly ate his lunch without so much as a word.
As if Poppa could read his thoughts, he chimed in, “This Empty Chair is not a sore reminder of a friend that did not come to lunch. It is a good sign that your friend, whether they were invited or not, is always welcomed into your heart and home.”
Two weeks later, Bradley handed Jerry an envelope. He rushed home to Poppa and opened it up. It was an invitation to have lunch with Bradley, at Bradley’s house. When the day arrived, Bradley answered the door and invited him in. Jerry was the guest that day and he was invited to have a seat, in The Empty Chair, realizing that his friend had really opened his heart and home to him.
*Written for the Thursday Blog Hop at the Writer’s Post. Come join in on the fun!*
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