The Paperboy


He sat there all alone outside, the cardboard box in which he stayed, reflections of the fire he'd built, were on the alley walls displayed.

The flames danced from a tiny fire, he built to try and keep him warm, the papers weren't all sold that day, so burning them would do no harm.

He'd been a paperboy since back, before his mom and dad had died, he couldn't seem to sell enough, but every afternoon he tried.

Attending school was out because, the papers came at half-past-noon, the best locations-where to sell, would all be taken very soon.

That dark abandoned alley where, he sat and shivered-tired and cold, would be off-limits very soon, “move on", that day he had been told.

He hadn't eaten all day long, and soon the fire would dwindle down, with eye lids closed he thought of food, then fell asleep there on the ground.

It seemed he dreamed about a place, where all were filled with peace and joy, a place where there were Moms and Dads, for every girl and every boy.

Crystal seas were all around, and all the streets were paved with gold, Jasper walls and mansions tall, and no one there was growing old.

No one ever knew of thirst, nor hunger- heartache - hurt or pain, all the air was filled with love, and from the skies each day would rain.

Kids all went to Christian schools, to sing and studied Bible verse, and everything was free to all, ‘cause no one had a money purse.

He stood beside a pearly gate, two angels slowly opened wide, they said, well done - the prize you've won, and now dear child please come inside.

He woke at dawn and gave a yawn, then off to work he quickly went, his sales were good - he bought some food, and nearly all his money spent.

That night he huddled in the alley, hoped his dream would start again, he longed to know what happened after, he had been invited in.

The papers left were just a few, he burned them slowly one by one, and hoped he wouldn't freeze that night, when all the burning had been done.

Then just before he fell asleep, he heard "A Voice" begin to say, "tomorrow you'll be here with Me, you'll never work another day”.

I've watched the things you say and do, observed the way you try to live, I've looked within your heart and seen, the love that you have tried to give.

The times you've helped old ladies cross, the street I've been around to see, the times you gave a lonely bum, a bite to eat - you gave to Me.

You gave to some of your last cent, to others helping hands you leant, and I was there each time you'd share, so now My Love to you is sent.

Tonight you'll dream a dream again, that I begin - it's just for you, but the dream I send won't ever end, tonight. . . your dream. . . comes true !


By Ron Baron



By Walter Wangerin, Jr.

I saw a strange sight. I stumbled upon a story most strange, like nothing my life, or my street sense, or my sly tongue had ever prepared me for.

Hush, child. Hush, now, and I will tell it to you.

Even before the dawn one Friday morning I noticed a young man, handsome and strong, walking the alleys of our City. He was pulling an old cart filled with clothes both bright and new, and he was calling in a clear, tenor voice: "Rags!" Ah, the air was foul and the first light filthy to be crossed by such sweet music.

"Rags! New rags for old! I take your tired rags! Rags!"

"Now, this is a wonder," I thought to myself, for the man stood six-feet-four, and his arms were like tree limbs, hard and muscular, and his eyes flashed intelligence. Could he find no better job than this, to be a ragman in the inner city?

I followed him. My curiosity drove me. And I wasn't disappointed.

Soon the Ragman saw a woman sitting on her back porch. She was sobbing into a handkerchief, sighing, and shedding a thousand tears. Her knees and elbows made a sad X. Her shoulders shook. Her heart was breaking.

The Ragman stopped his cart. Quietly, he walked to the woman, stepping round tin cans, dead toys, and Pampers.

"Give me your rag," he said so gently, "and I'll give you another."

He slipped the handkerchief from her eyes. She looked up, and he laid across her palm a linen cloth so clean and new that it shined. She blinked from the gift to the giver.

Then, as he began to pull his cart again, the Ragman did a strange thing: he put her stained handkerchief to his own face; and then HE began to weep, to sob as grievously as she had done, his shoulders shaking. Yet she was left without a tear.

"This IS a wonder," I breathed to myself, and I followed the sobbing Ragman like a child who cannot turn away from mystery.

"Rags! Rags! New rags for old!"

In a little while, when the sky showed grey behind the rooftops and I could see the shredded curtains hanging out black windows, the Ragman came upon a girl whose head was wrapped in a bandage, whose eyes were empty. Blood soaked her bandage. A single line of blood ran down her cheek.

Now the tall Ragman looked upon this child with pity, and he drew a lovely yellow bonnet from his cart.

"Give me your rag," he said, tracing his own line on her cheek, "and I'll give you mine."

The child could only gaze at him while he loosened the bandage, removed it, and tied it to his own head. The bonnet he set on hers. And I gasped at what I saw: for with the bandage went the wound! Against his brow it ran a darker, more substantial blood - his own!

"Rags! Rags! I take old rags!" cried the sobbing, bleeding, strong, intelligent Ragman.

The sun hurt both the sky, now, and my eyes; the Ragman seemed more and more to hurry.

"Are you going to work?" he asked a man who leaned against a telephone pole. The man shook his head.

The Ragman pressed him: "Do you have a job?"

"Are you crazy?" sneered the other. He pulled away from the pole, revealing the right sleeve of his jacket - flat, the cuff stuffed into the pocket. He had no arm.

"So," said the Ragman. "Give me your jacket, and I'll give you mine."

Such quiet authority in his voice!

The one-armed man took off his jacket. So did the Ragman - and I trembled at what I saw: for the Ragman's arm stayed in its sleeve, and when the other put it on he had two good arms, thick as tree limbs; but the Ragman had only one.

"Go to work," he said.

After that he found a drunk, lying unconscious beneath an army blanket, and old man, hunched, wizened, and sick. He took that blanket and wrapped it round himself, but for the drunk he left new clothes.

And now I had to run to keep up with the Ragman. Though he was weeping uncontrollably, and bleeding freely at the forehead, pulling his cart with one arm, stumbling for drunkenness, falling again and again, exhausted, old, old, and sick, yet he went with terrible speed. On spider's legs he skittered through the alleys of the City, this mile and the next, until he came to its limits, and then he rushed beyond.

I wept to see the change in this man. I hurt to see his sorrow. And yet I needed to see where he was going in such haste, perhaps to know what drove him so.

The little old Ragman - he came to a landfill. He came to the garbage pits. And then I wanted to help him in what he did, but I hung back, hiding. He climbed a hill. With tormented labor he cleared a little space on that hill. Then he sighed. He lay down. He pillowed his head on a handkerchief and a jacket. He covered his bones with an army blanket. And he died.

Oh, how I cried to witness that death! I slumped in a junked car and wailed and mourned as one who has no hope - because I had come to love the Ragman. Every other face had faded in the wonder of this man, and I cherished him; but he died. I sobbed myself to sleep.

I did not know - how could I know? - that I slept through Friday night and Saturday and its night, too.

But then, on Sunday morning, I was wakened by a violence.

Light - pure, hard, demanding light - slammed against my sour face, and I blinked, and I looked, and I saw the last and the first wonder of all. There was the Ragman, folding the blanket most carefully, a scar on his forehead, but alive! And, besides that, healthy! There was no sign of sorrow nor of age, and all the rags that he had gathered shined for cleanliness.

Well, then I lowered my head and trembling for all that I had seen, I myself walked up to the Ragman. I told him my name with shame, for I was a sorry figure next to him. Then I took off all my clothes in that place, and I said to him with dear yearning in my voice: "Dress me."

He dressed me. My Lord, he put new rags on me, and I am a wonder beside him. The Ragman, the Ragman, the Christ!











WJGT © 2010