Bryson’s Reward

One year my family attended an Easter egg hunt held at a large park in our community. We arrived half-an-hour before the designated start of the hunt, but already hundreds of children and parents milled about the field. I felt a twinge of disappointment as I read the age categories from the chart. Bryson would compete against six and seven year olds. At six, he resembled a four-year-old in size and development. Sickly since birth, he’d struggled for every physical accomplishment. Heart surgery and years of physical therapy had improved his health, but children his age dwarfed him in size.

“Good thing we came early,” I told him. “You can get a spot on the front row.”

He followed me to the starting line and stood smiling and eager with the other children. I left him there while I walked his siblings to their locations. I returned to find Bryson in the seventh or eighth row.

Disheartened, I knelt beside him. “What happened, buddy? How did you get way back here?”

“The other kids wanted to be up front. They were pushing and shoving so I let them have my spot. I don’t mind being in the back.”

I sighed. Born with a gentle and generous spirit, Bryson never hesitated to share or give preference to other children, even if it meant sacrificing something important to him.

Knowing the crowd would overrun Bryson, I offered him a strategy. “When the gun sounds, run as fast as you can down the sideline. The other children will stop to pick up eggs. You run past them and get eggs from the other end of the field.”

Bryson, obedient to a fault, nodded. “Okay, Mommy.”

Minutes later, the gun exploded and children ran in every direction, scooping up eggs. I watched Bryson run for a moment then turned to search for my other children. The contest ended in less than two minutes.

With the fields swept clean of their pastel plastic treasures, children returned to their parents. My oldest son arrived first, then my daughter. We waited together for little Bryson. Other children rushed from the field designated to the six- and seven-year-olds, lugging bags that bulged to overflowing with eggs. Seeing their bounty, our expectations of Bryson’s success were high.

Soon, he came into view. With a sweet, satisfied smile gracing his lips and chocolaty eyes alight with the excitement, he approached our little huddle. My gaze fell on his bag. Only a few small lumps lined the bottom of the sack, and my heart twisted in my chest. This was Bryson’s portion in life—to conduct himself politely when others were pushy, to remember to be considerate and kind when others were rude and aggressive, only to be cheated out of the reward he deserved. At that moment, life seemed unfair. He opened his bag and proudly showed us the four eggs he’d collected, a pitiful reward for such innate goodness.

As was my habit, I downplayed the fact that his performance was not as productive as the other children’s. I praised him for running fast and being polite. I focused on the fun we’d had and pretended numbers didn’t matter. Bryson showed no regret over his scant collection. With his trademark sweet smile, he examined his eggs, rolling them over in his hands.

As the hunt came to a close, the officials requested the contestants empty their eggs into their sacks and return the plastic shells for use again next year. We knelt down, and the children opened the eggs, exclaiming over the candy as they worked at the task.

Bryson, lacking strength in his hands and arms, was struggling to pry his eggs apart. I leaned over to assist him and opened the first egg. A slip of paper fluttered to the ground.

Bryson picked it up and stared in confusion. “Paper? Why did they put paper in my egg?”

I took the slip from him and read. “You are the grand prize winner.”

Emotion flooded my heart as God reminded me that winning isn’t about being the fastest or the strongest. To God, winning is in the attitude, and Bryson always had the best attitude. Finally, he was rewarded for his goodness.

Bryson went home with a shiny new bike.

~  ~  ~

Witnessing Bryson’s journey and all the struggles he endured as a toddler and young adolescent was life-changing for me.

There were days in hospitals and therapy sessions and specialists offices that were soooooo hard. And then there were days like the Easter egg hunt that were sooooo heart warming. I didn’t know my heart was capable of all the emotions that those experiences evoked. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience with your child. I think most parents do.

All that inspiration just couldn’t be contained, and being a wordsmith, I ended up writing a novel that expresses what a mother feels when she sees her child struggle and how that journey can impact her heart and her life. That story is called Holding On and is available as an ebook or a paperback.