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THE JACKET

Written by: Robert Nehls


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Short stories by really cool people.

A bit lazy and uninspired are the words I compassionately used to describe myself at that time in my life. To tell the truth I believe 90% lazy and 10% uninspired would sum it up quite well. There were many thoughts of wonder that stimulated my curiosity and somehow made me believe that if I pursued them my life would, in one way or another, be different. But sadly, I did not have the ambition to reach out and seize them.


When people spoke of a lazy summer day I’d smile to myself and think, that describes every day of my summer and many other seasons before it. Thinking this, without any remorse, fine with each day running into the next and no hope to change it. I could earn enough money doing odd jobs, now and then, to pay for a room and feed and clothe myself. But I had no aspiration to go beyond those necessities. This, of course, left me lots of time to do nothing.


One morning I woke and decided to walk downtown and look for a second-hand jacket. Summer had run its course and autumn would be upon us soon. As I walked through the many shops I found nothing that struck my fancy. Even a character of low worth does have the desire to elevate himself with the finest clothing that he is able to afford. Finally, I came upon the jacket that fit my lean frame well and gave me the look I desired. As I gazed at myself in the mirror I saw the reflection of the store clerk smiling at me, and I smiled back. I noticed the tag hanging off the sleeve and after looking at the price I put the jacket back on the rack. I thanked the clerk while making my way to the door.


“It looked so fine on you, my friend,” the clerk said, as I reached for the door handle.


“A little too rich for my blood, sir,” I spoke, turning to the cheerful clerk. “I did look good, I must admit, but far beyond my means.”

“Well, what can you afford?” He asked.

“Very little,” I answered, jingling the change in my pocket.

“Sounds like enough, my friend. I believe that jacket was made for you. Give me what you can and we’ll send you on your way.”


I gave him the change, shook his hand, thanked him for his kindness and happily walked out of the shop.


Walking back to my room I instinctively reached into the inside breast pocket and found a thin silver pendant inlaid with gold script and a hole at the top. The words were too small for me to read, so when I got back to my room I borrowed a neighbors magnifying glass and read the inscription.


I read as follows. “Whoever shall possess this pendant must apply oneself joyfully and thank God each day for the very long and prosperous life to come.”


Well, at first I kind of laughed but as I thought about it I decided the advice was sound. A long and prosperous life sounded much better than the life I somehow had been satisfied with at that time.


“What can it hurt? I asked myself while searching for the old Saint Christopher medal that my mother had given me when I was just a boy. I found it and the delicate chain fit through the hole of the pendant, I placed both treasures around my neck and vowed never to remove them.

Change did not take place overnight. I did not wake with a pot of gold sitting at the foot of the bed. But, each morning I woke with a smile on my face, happy to be alive. I told myself a long and prosperous life can be mine and I thanked God each day for all the possibilities.


My life slowly began to change. Long forgotten dreams sprang into my mind. Those inspirational thoughts that I had been too lazy to seize were now close to the surface and I told myself. “Reach out and grab them, there is nothing that can hold you back.”


There were gifts and talents that God had given to me and if I applied them humbly in my pursuit of dreams and aspirations, I truly knew that I could live a long and prosperous life.


Each profession and endeavor I pursued gave me an appreciation for life that I had never felt. When I became a carpenter, I found there were always others there to help me become the best that I could be. The same with iron work, poetry, janitorial work, and any other calling that I heard. They were there and gave of themselves so I could achieve excellence and in the process they also became better. That impressed me and made me understand that riches and abundance can be measured in different ways.


After many years and many skills learned I decided that wherever I lived and believe me when I say I have lived in numerous places, I would help others reach their true and full potential. I volunteered at churches, youth camps, juvenile detention centers, did missionary work and gave back to others that which God had given me. This, I sincerely believe, was my way of thanking God daily for the true riches that he had bestowed upon me.


After all these years the pendant remains around my neck. I suppose one day it will be passed on. That day is not here yet and as for now I live one day at a time. 2023 is a wonderful year to be alive and I thank God once again for a very long and prosperous life.


Today I celebrate another anniversary of the day a smiling clerk sold me a jacket for pocket change and changed my life so many years ago in London on August 1st, 1827.

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