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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series

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"...Choose only entertainment and media that uplift you. Good entertainment will help you to have good thoughts and make righteous choices...Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable."
For The Strength of Youth

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Submitted by Steven ODell on 2 December 2010 - 1:51pm. | | | | |

The Gift of Self
(C) Steven G. O'Dell--2010

Some lessons must be lived before they can be learned.

Charles Edmund Broadbent. The name rolled off the tongue with an air of pompous snobbery. It sounded as if it should be followed by a suffix, something like 'The Third'. And indeed it was. Charles Edmund Broadbent, the Third. That was him. The name, the snobbery and all that went with it; especially the money. Charles the Third had never worked a day in his life. He had no need to do so. His father was rich and had provided all he had ever needed, so long as he stayed out of any real trouble. His college, his car, his clothing and elaborate lifestyle were all taken care of, without question or concern. His grandfather had been rich, too. He had given his own son everything he wanted...and more. Too much, in fact. And that's why things had changed for Charles the Third.

Charles Broadbent the Second had one day experienced an epiphany of sorts and had decided to derail his son's life in a most disturbing manner. Where there had been a life of ease, albeit one lacking any real focus, there was now to be a whole new agenda for Charles the Third. And he wasn't sure he would like it one little bit. The conversation had gone something like this.

"Son, when a man approaches the portion of his life where he recognizes that he could have...when he wishes he had done things differently...he has a choice to make. 'Do I continue to do things as I have in the past, the things that have left me ultimately disappointed, or do I change my path and do it differently, knowing it will change and affect the lives of others, as well?' The answer isn't an easy one to come by, unless you are driven by genuine affection, as well as by logic. You know that I love you, don't you, son?"

"I've never questioned it before. You have me worried now, though, speaking this way. It isn't you. You're being too serious. Are you alright?"

"Never been better, in fact."

"Are you sure, Dad? Referring to reaching 'that portion of your life' makes me wonder about your health." He hadn't bothered to call his father 'Dad' for some time. Now, it was obvious he was genuinely concerned.

"Alright...there's no sense in beating around the bush. Let's get right to it, shall we?" His face took on a state of somber weightiness his son had seldom seen and not since the death of his mother several years before. He took a deep breath before continuing.

"You never knew why your grandfather died. You were too young to understand and the subject was never broached as you got older. He had a rare blood disorder. We never thought it was genetic, but it now appears we were wrong. I have the same disorder. And as of today, there is no known treatment for it."

He took another deep breath, paused and then opened his mouth to speak, but closed it again and stared at the floor.

"Dad, you're worried that I might have the same disorder, aren't you?"
'The Second' nodded slowly and almost imperceptibly.

"Okay, so I may be doomed to the same fate as you and granddad. What do we do about it? Nothing, evidently."

"No, not nothing. Your life is going to be a bit different from now on. It's for your own good."

'The Third' gazed in questioning puzzlement into his father's eyes.
"Not to worry. Like I said, it's for your own good." His smile was pensive, but genuine.

Charles Broadbent the Second had succumbed to his ailment some months before, leaving specific directions regarding his son, via his lawyer. Charles the Third had been quite surprised..no, shocked...when the reading of the Will had revealed that he was to be given $500,000 with the instruction that he was to give it all away to those he deemed to be in genuine need. There was no time limit to accomplish this task, but he was to get no other funds from the estate until he had done so.
What was his father trying to accomplish with this decision? It seemed a waste of time and resources to wander about distributing half a million dollars. There had to be better uses for it, he thought. Additionally, he was concerned what would happen once the word got out that he was passing out free money. Every indolent in the country would beat a path to his door.

Finally resolved to his fate, Charles knew that if he were to move on with his life, he would need to find people in need of help--his help. He had no idea where to begin. All his life he had been self-centered. Not that he was a bad person--he had just not taken much notice of the needs of anyone outside his own family. Now, totally out of his field of expertise, he needed to gain personal experience at crash-course speed.

The local homeless shelter seemed a logical place to begin. What was he to do, though, buy a home for each of the present tenants of the homeless shelter? Even half of a million dollars would be gone in short order, but he inherently felt that was not the intent of his father's Will.

Instead, Charles arranged for apartments, paid up for six months each, for all who showed interest in ending the downward cycle they'd found themselves in. He then contacted several local firms to discuss entry-level employment for those he had rented apartments for. A number of the firms were positively intrigued by his project, as they called it. Over half of them agreed to be part of the experiment. Charles felt a tingle of excitement somewhere deep inside. He hadn't felt that for some time and didn't have a clue why he was feeling it now. He only knew he felt good.
Next, Charles went to a few local charities and asked them to recommend families they thought he could assist in a meaningful way. The first thing that struck him deeply was the suggestion reagrding a family with a child that was ill and the father out of work for losing time due to his child's medical concerns. That would be his target of choice then. He might not be able to help himself, but he could help this family.

Arrangements were made to take care of house payments for six months, medical bills were brought up to date and an estimate made of required funds to heal the child sufficiently to allow the father to go back to work. Again, Charles felt good about what he was doing. Somewhere, down deep, a fire was growing and warming his heart. Or was it that his heart was growing, thereby causing the warmth? It was hard to tell.

Not much had changed, really, in three years. Nothing on the surface, except that his health had begun to run down a bit. Life had gone on relatively the same as before, except for the daily focus on finding those in need. What had started as a chore, had become an obligation and eventually had transformed into a mission. The half million was nearly exhausted and Charles was suddenly surprised to find he was feeling disappointment that his life was again due to change. What would he do after the money was gone? He would be alone in a big house. Then it occured to him this was the same big house he had always lived in. He would drive the same car he had driven before, would eat the same foods he had eaten before, attend the same entertainment venues he always had, etcetera. The only difference would be that he was no longer required to track down the needy. And somehow, that left him feeling empty.

There had been a change in Charles, however. Where he had once complained that the indolent might come pounding on his door, begging for his family fortune, he now understood that he had just as certainly been one of those indolent he had looked down upon. Sure, he had money, but he'd had no purpose or focus, other than to coast through life, thinking of no one but himself. That had changed, however. Charles was surprised and pleased to find that he now thoroughly enjoyed his assignment. Given the choice, he would now rather do some good for a stranger than to attend a theatrical play or the opera. It had become a fun game for him to see if he could instinctively identify those who sincerely needed help from those who simply wanted a handout. He had become quite adept at it in three years. And along the way, he'd learned some valuable lessons about himself.

Charles was no longer self-centered. He was a caring individual with a heart as bright as the gold he'd had to share. When the half million was exhausted, he'd voluntarily wanted to continue doing what he'd previously been required to do. And he was thankful to his father for teaching him a valuable lesson. A conversation with the family lawyer had revealed that his grandfather hadn't learned some of the lessons he had. And his father had learned late in life that thinking only of yourself was unproductive, whereupon he had determined to see that his son would learn the same lesson. It so happened that his son was quite an apt student.

One day, when Charles was visiting a hospital to determine the best course of action for an injured single mother of three, a random conversation ensued and Charles was informed that recent developments in the field of hematology might offer some real hope for his own condition. And it just so happened that a doctor pioneering in the effort was to visit his city in a few weeks to speak and teach. And he was willing to take volunteer patients in order to demonstrate his technique to physicians who were interested in learning. Just hearing of it was like a miraculous and divine event to Charles. He was certainly ready to have his name on that list.

The day had come when Charles was to receive treatment for his condition. He was shivering almost uncontrollably from excitement and from fear. A sense of his mortality had taken over and seemed unable to be shaken. He was cold and stressed. In this condition, only a sedative would help. The problem was that a sedative would skew the results of the treatment. Just as the procedure was about to be canceled and the next volunteer on the list was to be called, Charles suddenly became aware that he was relaxed and no longer afraid. How it had happened, he was not certain. It was simply enough that it had.

It was a week later and Charles was already feeling noticeably better. He had renewed energy. He had his old drive and desire again. And he had a boost of confidence, stemming from the preliminary conversation he'd had with the treating physician. In the course of getting to know one another and sharing details of their lives, Charles had revealed his passion to help others. In response, the good doctor had encouraged him to form a foundation for just that purpose, the continuing assistance to those in dire need. And he had offered to be of help in doing so, even to making a cash contribution if desired. Charles had never considered such a thing before and the thought intrigued him. He vowed to see the family attorney as soon as he could.
In the course of events since the project had begun, Charles had done most of his contributing to the needs of others through the lawyer, who had been the point of contact for those benefiting from his generosity. Now, Charles arrived at the offices of the law firm to find that he had been about to be contacted to pick up a number of personal letters directed to him. What could they be? Requests for more funds? Unexpected complications from his trying to help?

Charles opened the first letter, a curious attorney watching closely. It was from a woman he had helped but two months ago. She'd needed a bypass surgery if she was to survive. She had thanked him before, but now she wrote to say that she had recently felt the need to pray for him; that somehow, something wasn't right and he had need of help himself. After praying, she felt a sense of unsurpassed peace. The letter expressed her wishes that all was better in his life and was a repeated show of gratitude for what he had done in her behalf. She vowed she would pass on his good deed, as best she could, for as long as she lived.

The next letter was identical in purpose and subject matter, as was the third, the fourth and so on. Virtually every letter read the same. How had all these people known the hour of his need and prayed for him at that time? How was it possible? He reflected on that day, when he had been shaking so badly that the treatment had almost been canceled. He recalled how in his greatest despair, a peace had come over him that he could not describe or explain. Now he knew the answer. He had felt the prayers...or at least the results of those prayers. Charles wiped a tear from his eye and looked upward. He was not alone. So long as he lived, he knew that he would never be alone again--not so long as God was listening and answering. Not so long as Charles helped others in need.

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