By: email@example.com"Father we thank thee for this food. Amen." echoed the children's voices as they bounced off the walls of the large dining room at the Jacksonville, Florida orphanage where I lived.
"Please let there be something good to eat today," I thought to myself, as I watched everyone, standing at attention behind their chairs. Every child's eyes shut and their heads bowed.
Suddenly all was silent, just as it was at every meal that we kids ate, year after year, at this terrible orphanage. I watched from the corner of my eye as Mother Winters, the head matron, picked up the little gold bell and held it still, for a second, hoping that one of the children would accidentally sit down before the bell rang and she could send them away without having their breakfast.
"Ding-a-ling, ding-a-ling, ding-a-ling" sounded the little bell.
I watched as fifty children, six to a table, slowly pulled out their chairs, careful not to make a sound, and they all began to sit down.
Each child sat down, with their hands folded in their laps, remaining totally silent until Mother Winters nodded her head so that breakfast could begin.
I reached down and picked up a piece of burnt toast and I began taking very small bites. I continued to watch Mother Winters eat her own breakfast out of the corner of my eye.
"How could someone who runs an orphanage hate and treat children so badly." I thought to myself, as I continued to watch her every move.
All of a sudden she looked up from her plate and looked directly at me.
"Oh! God. Please don't let her see me looking at her." I said to myself.
"Ding-a-ling, ding-a-ling." went the little gold bell.
Instantly all the children stopped eating and the entire dining-room fell totally silent.
"Evidently we have an IDIOT." she screamed. "Named Dean Kiser who thinks that he can look around the dining room rather than eat his breakfast." she continued.
I sat there, motionless at my assigned station with my head lowered, I watched as the small beetle bugs moved around in my corn flakes.
"Ding-a-ling." Went the bell again.
I slowly looked up and I saw Mother Winters motioning for me to stand up with her finger. I carefully moved my seat back from the table, careful not to scrape the floor, and I stood up in front of my chair. The entire dining-room remained totally silent. All the children sat completely motionless as she and I stared at one another.
"WHAT DID YOU SAY?" she screamed at me.
Every eye in the room was now upon me and they were as big a saucers.
"WHAT DID YOU SAY TO ME?" She hollered, again.
"I didn't say nothing Mother Winters. Really I didn't" I told her.
"She's just a mean person." said one of the smaller boys who was sitting at the same table as I."
"Get your ugly rear-end back over to your dormitory." She demanded.
Keeping my eyes to the floor I slowly walked to the door leading out onto the screened in breezeway porch. I slightly opened the door, stopped, turned around, and I looked directly into the eyes of Mother Winters.
Her arm outstretched in front of her, like that of Germany's Hitler, demanding that I obey her every order without question.
"I said move. NOW!" she screamed at me.
I moved not a muscle.
"NOW! NOW! NOW!" she screamed as loud as she could.
She reached over and snatched up the little dinner bell.
"DING-A-LING, DING-A-LING, DING-A-LING, DING-A-LING." rang the bell as she shook it above her head, as hard as she could.
"GET OUT OF HERE! GET OUT NOW!" she kept yelling at me, as she continued to ring the bell.
I opened the dining-room door and walked out onto the porch. I stopped at the door leading outside the breeze-way and I stood there trying to catch my breath.
I looked straight ahead, moving my eyes from right to left, looking at the large prison style dormitories which housed the little babies on the right, the girls on the left and my own two story, white, brick prison directly in front of me. I placed my two hands on top of my head and I began to cry as I ran, as fast as I could, toward my dormitory.
When I entered the building I walked into the small kitchen, located by the television room. I opened the small white drawer and I took out a butter-knife. I placed it against my chest where I always put my hand over my heart while saying the pledge allegiance to the flag at School. I pressed the knife as hard as I could but it just would not go into my heart.
"Can I help you son?" said someone standing behind me.
Quickly I turned around and I saw a young woman standing in the doorway, smiling at me. Her face seemed to have a glow about it.
"What is your name?" She asked me.
"Roger Dean Kiser." I replied, as I tried to secretly place the knife back into the drawer behind me.
"How old are you?" She said.
"Eleven, Ma'am." I told her.
"How long have you lived here in this orphanage home?" She asked.
"A whole bunch of years now." I responded.
"Do you know what love is?" She said, as she reached out toward me.
"It's a word you say when you like someone." I told her.
"Oh it is so much more than that, Roger Dean." She said, smiling at me.
She stretched out her arm and motioned for me to come to her. I walked over and I stood directly in front of her. She reached out and she placed her hand on the side of my face. My entire body tingled and I felt warm and wonderful inside.
"Do you want someone to love you?" She asked me.
"Yes Ma'am, I guess." I told her.
"Then you have to be able to forgive those who do not love you. Do you understand what that means?" she asked.
"Not really." I replied.
"Can you say: "I love you Jesus?" she asked me.
"You can say it." she told me.
"I LOVE...YOU JESUS." I screamed out.
"And Jesus loves you, Roger?" She said.
I fell onto the floor and I started crying as loud as I could. I just could not stop crying, no matter how hard I tried. Finally I heard the other children coming back from the dining-room. I raised my head to look up at the woman but she had vanished. I got up off the floor and I walked over to the sink and I began to wash my face.
I have no idea who the woman was, or where she came from. It was if she had just disappeared into thin air. That incident occurred in 1956. I have never forgotten that kind look and I have never forgotten that wonderful feeling that she gave me when she touched, not only my face, but my heart was well.
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