You are not Alone

It was Valentine's Day. I was in a new job.

My boss walked up to me and handed me a red, heart-shaped balloon, "Happy Valentine's Day, Mike!"

My cubicle is one of hundreds in an acre of cubes. If I go to the bathroom, the lunchroom, or am just coming in to start my day, I'm lost. Every cubicle looks the same.

I tied the balloon to the wall of my cubicle, "There!" I thought to myself. "Now I'll be able to find my cube."

An hour later, I stood up and looked around. Every cubicle had a red, heart-shaped balloon tied to it.

For a short time I thought I was different, but I was wrong. I was not the only balloon. Memories from the past came flashing back.

"Stop shaking the floor!" Dad yelled. We were three boys in a four room house. I was the youngest of the family. Our house was so small, it was impossible not to bother our father. We tried to walk softly, but the floor shook and upset him.

I was 18 when we got an indoor bathroom. Before that, we used an outhouse. We were poor and knew it. My friends had indoor bathrooms, but we went outside to use ours. We trudged through the snow to do our business, even when it was -25 degrees or lower.

Years later, I had my own home and family. Our house sat on the side of a hill, with a great view of the cove below us. The ocean currents filled the cove with fresh water and provided for the osprey and bald eagles who fed there. They were wonderful to watch.

The company I worked for at that time made major changes. After fifteen years of service, I was let go. I had to move. It was another hard time in my life. I was separated from my wife and kids. It was a year before we were back together.

We weren't separated because we wanted to be, it was the circumstances of my work. Later, we moved again and then again. Life wouldn't allow us to stay in one place.

Years later, my wife passed away due to illness. I always seemed to be in a maze, alone, struggling to find my way.

In every case, I thought I was the only one, but I was wrong.

There were other kids who used an outhouse, other people who moved, and other spouses who lost loved ones.

We feel like we are facing unique problems, but in reality, we're not. No matter what we face or how lonely we feel, there are always others suffering the same.

I thought I was the only balloon. I was wrong.

Michael T. Smith

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