It was cold and dark and I was afraid to go out -- afraid the radiation would get me. The ghastly big cloud had traveled all around the world, blocking out the sun. The meltdown and fires continued at the nuclear plant which was clear on the other side of the world. It was such a big world -- how could anyone foresee such a disaster? Except for my parents and my sister, no one that I knew gave much thought about what was going on in a foreign land. I'd been taught at an early age that we should care about each other and love one another and make our space in life a better place in which to live. But that philosophy wasn't important to me or to my friends. We thought about parties and having fun...even at the expense of others sometimes. Who cared about someone else's world and someone else's problems? Now that it was too late, those wise instructions began to make sense.
The last series of explosions from the nuclear plant had sent monstrous proportions of radioactive particles into the air. The black smoke had been billowing out of the area -- I'd seen the pictures on TV. The reporters said the explosions had started a series of earthquakes and then a nearby volcano started to stir. Steam and some ash were pouring out from its top. It was probably only a matter of time before it erupted...
They also said that the smoke from the awful, unquenchable fires was blocking the sun completely, and in a few short months we would all freeze to death -- if we didn't die from the radiation first.
On the final transmission, they said that now there was no safe place to go -- no sanctuary -- we were all trapped, almost overnight, in our poisoned world which we all had part in creating. They said there had been some reports of other earthquakes which had started volcanos erupting in many parts of the world and that this would probably be their final report. They were going home to be with their families and pray and hope for a miracle to save us all. For a moment, a couple of movies flashed in my mind. They had explored various possibilities of what would happen in the event of a nuclear disaster. Then the thought crossed my mind that perhaps all this was a great big joke. Then I looked out the window and realized this was the real thing -- not a make-believe disaster -- and there was nothing laughable.
I knew that some robbers and looters had begun their trade, knowing some people had left, seeking a safer place. Now this deadly cloud...there would be no escape. I wondered how long it would take the thieves to figure out that all their efforts would gain them absolutely nothing. They would die with all their ill-gotten 'wealth.' Money would not buy them a sanctuary...why did they even bother to take it? As I pondered, I realized that every material thing I had or could ever want to have was indeed worthless. How could I have wasted my time thinking about and trying to obtain an expensive car and lots and lots of money? Oh, God! If You were to exist! How I wish I had given my family a hug and a love before they left! They tried to give me one, but I was so ignorant! I told them I didn't need any of that 'mushy' stuff...now I'd give up everything I had or ever wanted to have for that love!
I figured it was best to die in my own home, with memories of my family. Knowing what I knew now, I was almost glad that they had been killed instantly nearly a year ago in a fiery, head-on crash. Never realizing it might be a blessing for them I had cursed God for allowing that accident to happen. Maybe that was the reason why I was still alive, to suffer for that cursing. I had always been a rebel. I never wanted to go to church with my parents. I had accused my sister of being a stupid, 'holy, righteous person,' who just thought she'd go to heaven. I had teased her unmercifully, and she always let me rattle on. When I was finished, she would just quietly whisper that she hoped someday I would understand how important it was for each person to have the love of God inside for themselves and for every other living thing.
I always thought she and my parents were silly, going to visit people who were sick or having problems and helping other people with difficulties. It took a lot of their free time -- time I resented them using for other people. I couldn't understand how my sister would go along with them, baking breads and other goodies and giving them away at Christmas time and any other time they deemed necessary to bolster other people's spirits.
Oh, I knew my family loved me. They showed their love in every way they could. I just never appreciated them and their love, kindness and consideration. They always tried to include me in everything they did, but very seldom did I go along and do things with them, like my sister always did. My so-called friends told me I had been 'spared' from the wreck. I was supposed to have gone with them, but I had other, more important plans with my drunken friends. When the policeman knocked on my door very early on the morning after they left, I had opened the door with a cuss word or two and an awful hangover. Then...suddenly...I found out I had been left alone to survive on this planet the best I could...and I cursed God...and now this...my punishment...I'm so scared! I'm only 19! And nobody cares! What can I do? What can I do...
It took me a while to realize there was a soft knocking on the door. My voice sounded like a screaming siren in the silence as I yelled, "Is anyone there?"
"Please -- I'm cold, hungry and lost...please help me!" The voice sounded small and scared, so I opened the door. A tiny, frightened boy stood in the doorway with a big plastic bag covering his head and shoulders, almost touching the ground. Only his shoes were soaked with the deadly radiated waters, so I told him to carefully kick them off, one at a time, and put each foot carefully onto the floor mat inside my door. He'd probably be okay for a while, he looked healthy enough...
He pointed toward the street, tears in his eyes. On the ground lay a woman. She did not move. She had no hat or coat or plastic bag to shield her.
"That lady helped me escape some bad men who were going to take my plastic bag away from me. They were going to hurt me, too. She came along and helped me get away from them. She was awfully nice, but she was so sick. She kept throwing up. She told me she was going to die soon, but she would somehow take me to a safe place."
"There is no safe place anymore," I told him quietly. "We are all going to die now...this whole world is going to die now."
"Don't you think someone could save us?" The boy was so innocent...what would it be like, thinking someone cared enough to come save us? I felt a dull, throbbing pain in my chest. My heart must be breaking. As I looked at this youngster, memories flooded my mind. They were memories of loving times with my family...and I felt compassion for another person for the first time in my life as I gazed at the boy's bright eyes, so full of hope. Then an overwhelming sorrow for what had happened to all of us in this world gripped my consciousness and the pain was so devastating!
I had to change the subject and stop thinking about what mankind had done to the earth or I would have died from the intense agony I momentarily felt.
"Here, kid, you were hungry, weren't you?" I offered him my last morsel of food, and next to the last can of pop, not comprehending my own generosity. I'd never been a food storage 'nut,' so I never went to the store until everything was gone...and now it was gone. He carefully took the slice of bread, broke it in half and offered half back to me. I shook my head.
"You go ahead and eat it, kid." I tried to disregard the start of a gnawing sensation in my stomach. "It's cold in here, too. Here's a blanket. Cuddle up in it and be as comfortable as you can...for as long as you can. I won't be the one to spoil your outlook on life. Someone else can bust your wonderful balloon. Maybe someone will come to help us, after all. Maybe someone will make it through all this radiation without dying and give us a magic potion so we can make it through that stuff without dying, too. Then maybe we can eat all the radiated food without becoming contaminated. Oh, kid! You have some kind of blind faith, that's for sure!"
His blue eyes were so big as he looked at me. They seemed to be able to search deep within my soul for answers I could not give. Then he bowed his head and to my chagrin, began to pray!
"Heavenly Father, Mommy told me that you love each and every one of us..." As he continued to pray, I wondered how his words could be so soft and so wise for such a young person. I seemed to remember that children were so very important to the Father we have in Heaven. I didn't know what to do, so I knelt down beside him and bowed my head also, closing my eyes, wondering if there could indeed be someone who could -- and would -- save us...or at least save this little child.
As we both prayed earnestly for help, his prayers filled with blind faith and mine filled with desperation, there was another knock on the door. I was afraid to open it, for fear it would be some robbers or worse, but the boy ran toward the door crying, "He's here! He's here!"
I got off my knees, but before I could intervene, the boy jerked the door open. There stood a man. There was terror and darkness behind him, but a light seemed to emanate from his being. He reached out with his big hand to grasp the boy's small one.
"Come, follow me. Do not be afraid, for I am with you." He looked so gentle, but also so strong. How could anyone be both?
"You're not getting me to go out into that awful stuff! Are you both crazy?" The words gushed from my mouth, and then I began to feel an awful shame.
The man stopped looking at the boy and directed his intense gaze upon my own countenance. I saw dark eyes with light beaming forth. When the light from his eyes struck mine, I was dazed for a few seconds. Then a warm, secure feeling seemed to fill my whole being. The words he had said to the boy began to ring in my ears. I had heard them before...where?
"Do you not know me?" he asked, ever so softly.
I could not answer...words would not come to my lips, but something deep inside of me knew him. Words tumbled about in my mind. I closed my eyes again and shook my head, trying to clear it. Then I felt the boy's small hand rest gently in mine. Faith -- what was it? Was it time to exercise my faith...my belief of what I felt inside...that all was as it should be...that this boy was safe...that I was safe...
I was going to go with them, I knew I was going to go. I gripped the boy's hand firmly and headed out the door with this boy and this man. I knew for certain I had made the right decision when He started speaking to us:
"For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."