I grew up feeling insecure and afraid. My father was either away from home or drunk.  My mother was also usually gone. She had to work long hours to make enough money to take care of four children and pay the rent. I often feared that something horrible might happen to my parents and that I would be left alone. I wanted to be sure that I was a good child so that they would not leave me. I wanted everyone to think that I was a good boy and worth loving. 

What is in the heart of a little boy who has no father? No father to run to and say, "I hurt myself today" or "I had a fight today, but I won" or "Will you play soccer with me today?" And then, after getting a step-father, having the mother say, "Never disturb him, he is too busy."

This had a powerful effect on one little boy, me.

"Look at what Caitlin's wearing," my classmate whispered to her friend as I walked past her locker. She had an ugly smile on her face. "She's TRYING to fit in." They both burst into giggles. I pretended that I hadn't heard them as I continued past, but my heart sank. And then a fierce, angry determination came over me...."I'll show them...." I muttered under my breath.

          As I lifted my head from the arm chair, I couldn't decide what hurt worse, the crick in my neck from sleeping sideways, or the pounding in my head from the copious amounts of alcohol I had consumed a few hours earlier. As I tried to recall what events preceded my awkward rest, bigger and more troubling questions started to surface. Questions like, "What I am doing with my life, where am I headed, and why am I so unhappy?" Just a few months earlier I left home to start my studies at the university, full of hope and high expectations.

My Mom was the daughter of an itinerate preacher. She saw to it that my brother and I attended church every Sunday, beginning at a very young age. However, as I grew older, I drifted away from the teachings of my youth only to make a lot of mistakes.

But God wasn't through with me yet.  It was many years later as I waited for my daughter at a bus stop that a little old woman with a kind face asked me, "If you died tonight, do you know where you would spend eternity?" 

            After a long pause on the telephone, the nurse finally said, "I will need to have the doctor call you back in a few minutes with the biopsy results."  
            I knew by her response that I did have cancer and that my life would be now going in a completely different direction than I had planned.  It happened in a moment.

On an overnight train from Vienna to Warsaw, I found myself face to face with the Polish border guard. With his right hand raised and with his eyes turned upward, the man uttered one single English word--- “LIBERTY.” That was the initial response from the guard when he realized that I lived in America. The word “liberty” was one of the few English words that he knew, and to this man it was a word that well represented America and its freedoms. Surprisingly, a second response followed.


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