Honesty

The empty box glares back at me.

“How do you feel you can contribute to this program?”

This question is more difficult than any I have faced.  It is worse than the complex formulas of organic chemistry and the tedious matrices of pre-calculus, combined.  It has no right answer.  No amount of studying could have prepared me for this.

I feel that I could contribute my fresh perspective and knack for finding uncommon solutions to ordinary problems, I type.  I love working in teams and readily take on leadership roles in order to get the job done, I spill a million half-truths in virtual ink.  I hope the person reading this believes me.

 ***

            The empty box glares back at me.

“Tell of an experience where you have been given a large amount of responsibility.  What did you learn from it?”

I don’t know why, but this one is easier.

One summer, when I was fourteen, I had to fulfill the role of mother for myself and my sister.  I learned to cook pretty well, and I also learned how to wash and fold laundry.  I learned that I had to need myself as much as I needed others, but what if this experience isn’t enough?  To quote my mother, there are plenty of others who have had it worse.

I leave out the tear-filled nights, the yelling about how my chores did nothing to make up for my lack of competence, the fury about my having folded the underwear wrong.  No one would believe that.  No one ever has.

We Will Deliver

A bus wanders down the lonely highway, its dirty sides reflecting with the late afternoon sun.  Behind its black-tinted windows are tomorrow’s engineers and doctors, social workers and educators; but one would not think this if they saw them now.  The eyes of these brilliant souls are glassy, their arms stiff and sore.  They are clad in thick coats and wooly socks, mother’s scarves and grandma’s hats.  At this hour, they are children seeking home.

The bus turns from the main road to a path that is far too old to withstand its modern girth.  Still, it squeezes itself onto the gravelly funnel and rolls forth with unbending confidence.  No one else has dared to venture out, today: the ground is covered in a thick blanket of snow, and all else is tucked beneath a sheet of ice.  Nothing moves while the hulking product of will and industry makes its mighty journey.  Its movement in this time-capsule corner of the country evokes from its inhabitants a passive sense of trust.

Even the trains are frozen still, taking shelter beneath sturdy pines and tall maple skeletons.  Their skins are scarred with stripes of precipitation, and their iron hearts are colder than the air itself.  As the bus charges past their mummified faces, they make a silent promise.

We Will Deliver, they say.

Will they?