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When God lives under the bed

Some time ago I received an e-mail from a college fraternity brother who I’ll call Russ. Russ is retired from a very successful consulting business and lives the good life just outside of San Diego. He spends his time traveling, playing golf, pursuing his passion for art and growing avocados on his ranchette.Russ hasn’t changed all that much since we were 20 years old. In fact, if you’ll excuse the pun, at times our dialogue is even more sophomoric than it was when we attended the University of Dayton. But this time, his e-mail was different.It related the apocryphal story of a 30-year-old man named Kevin, who apart from his 6-2 stature resembles an adult in few ways. You see, Kevin is mentally disabled as a result of difficulties during his birth. I know Russ sent me this story for a reason, and after reading it, I understood Russ’ message because I began to envy the peace the 30-year-old Kevin has in his life. The story is told by Kevin’s younger brother, Tommy. It begins by recounting to the reader what he overheard one night while walking past Kevin’s bedroom. Kevin believes God lives under his bed. One night while Kevin was praying out loud in his darkened bedroom his brother heard him say, “Are you there, God?” “Where are you? Oh, I see you, you’re under the bed.”After hearing those words, Tommy tiptoed off to his own room and began to snicker as he usually does when Kevin goes off into his own little world. But for some unknown reason, on this night Kevin’s behavior wasn’t the source of amusement that it usually was. On this particular night, Tommy realized for the first time the very different world Kevin lived in.Kevin reasons and communicates with the capabilities of a 7-year-old and he always will. He will probably always believe that God lives under his bed, Santa Claus is the one who delivers presents under the tree every Christmas, and airplanes are carried aloft by angels.Tommy’s narrative reveals how Kevin is up before dawn each day, off to work at a workshop for the disabled, home to walk the family’s cocker spaniel, then returning to eat his favorite macaroni-and-cheese for dinner, and later to bed. The only variation in the daily routine is laundry, when he hovers excitedly over the washing machine like a mother with her newborn child.But Kevin does not seem dissatisfied. He lopes out to the bus every morning at 7:05 eager for a day of simple work. He wrings his hands excitedly while the water boils on the stove before dinner, and he stays up late twice a week to gather the family’s dirty laundry for his next day’s laundry chores.And Saturdays, oh, the bliss of Saturdays! That’s the day Kevin’s dad takes him to the airport to have a soft drink, watch the jets taking off and landing, and speculate about the destinations of the passengers inside. Some time ago I received an e-mail from a college fraternity brother who I’ll call Russ. Russ is retired from a very successful consulting business and lives the good life just outside of San Diego. He spends his time traveling, playing golf, pursuing his passion for art and growing avocados on his ranchette.Russ hasn’t changed all that much since we were 20 years old. In fact, if you’ll excuse the pun, at times our dialogue is even more sophomoric than it was when we attended the University of Dayton. But this time, his e-mail was different.It related the apocryphal story of a 30-year-old man named Kevin, who apart from his 6-2 stature resembles an adult in few ways. You see, Kevin is mentally disabled as a result of difficulties during his birth. I know Russ sent me this story for a reason, and after reading it, I understood Russ’ message because I began to envy the peace the 30-year-old Kevin has in his life. The story is told by Kevin’s younger brother, Tommy. It begins by recounting to the reader what he overheard one night while walking past Kevin’s bedroom. Kevin believes God lives under his bed. One night while Kevin was praying out loud in his darkened bedroom his brother heard him say, “Are you there, God?” “Where are you? Oh, I see you, you’re under the bed.”After hearing those words, Tommy tiptoed off to his own room and began to snicker as he usually does when Kevin goes off into his own little world. But for some unknown reason, on this night Kevin’s behavior wasn’t the source of amusement that it usually was. On this particular night, Tommy realized for the first time the very different world Kevin lived in.Kevin reasons and communicates with the capabilities of a 7-year-old and he always will. He will probably always believe that God lives under his bed, Santa Claus is the one who delivers presents under the tree every Christmas, and airplanes are carried aloft by angels.Tommy’s narrative reveals how Kevin is up before dawn each day, off to work at a workshop for the disabled, home to walk the family’s cocker spaniel, then returning to eat his favorite macaroni-and-cheese for dinner, and later to bed. The only variation in the daily routine is laundry, when he hovers excitedly over the washing machine like a mother with her newborn child.But Kevin does not seem dissatisfied. He lopes out to the bus every morning at 7:05 eager for a day of simple work. He wrings his hands excitedly while the water boils on the stove before dinner, and he stays up late twice a week to gather the family’s dirty laundry for his next day’s laundry chores.And Saturdays, oh, the bliss of Saturdays! That’s the day Kevin’s dad takes him to the airport to have a soft drink, watch the jets taking off and landing, and speculate about the destinations of the passengers inside. “That one’s goin’ to Chi-car-go!” Kevin shouts as he claps his hands. His anticipation is so great he can hardly sleep on Friday nights. And so goes his world of daily rituals and weekend field trips.Kevin doesn’t know what it means to be discontent. His life is simple. He will never know the entanglements of wealth and power. He does not care what brand of clothing he wears or if he dines at the latest trendy eatery. His needs have always been met, and he never worries that one day they may not be. His hands are diligent and he is never as happy as when he is working. When he unloads the dishwasher or vacuums the carpet, his heart is completely in it. He does not shrink from a job when it is begun, and he does not leave a job until it is finished. But when his tasks are done, Kevin knows how to relax. Kevin isn’t obsessed with his work or the work of others. His heart is pure. He still believes that everyone tells the truth, promises must be kept, and when you are wrong, you apologize instead of arguing.Free from pride and unconcerned with appearances, Kevin is not afraid to cry when he is hurt, angry or sorry. He is always transparent, always sincere. Not confined by intellectual reasoning, when he is confused, he trusts in a force greater than himself.Whether a fictional character or not, it’s difficult not to envy the security and simplicity in Kevin’s world. It also leads me to ask if it’s not those of us who consider ourselves “normal” rather than Kevin who have the handicap. How many times do our obligations, fears, pride and circumstances disable us?Kevin spends his life in a kind of innocence, praying after dark and soaking up the goodness and love around him. Overly simplistic? Of course it is. Parables and allegorical stories usually are. But regardless of the story’s authenticity, the message it delivers is profound. Butch Mazzuca, a local Realtor and ski instructor, writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at bmazz68@earthlink.net Vail, Colorado


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