Benny was a twelve years old boy, who lived in St. Petersburg Florida and enjoyed the beach. The surf helped to alleviate the ache in his soul. Benny felt he had no place to belong and no one to accept him. His father had been in and out of jail for the last five years and when he was home he was usually drunk. Mom had died when poor lad was only six.
Benny sensed that he was nothing but an irritation to his father. He would verbally lash out at his son and sometimes hit him, so the boy would run away from home. Three times Benny was placed in a foster home. But even there, nobody really cared for him in that special way families are supposed to care. The distraught young fellow felt that he was nothing more than an inconvenience. He found the streets to be a better alternative than life in a house that was not a home. Each time he ran, he was caught and sent to another loveless house.
Once more Benny was taken into the custody of the State of Florida. If this final placement did not work, the next stop for this disheartened boy would be Juvenile Detention. He had now been placed with Carl and Helen Wheaton, the best strawberry growers and purveyors in central Florida.
Farming had been a way of life for the Wheaton family for many years and another farm hand was always welcomed. However, both Carl and Helen missed having young ones around the house. The empty nest syndrome had set in right after their youngest son went off to college. Benny was suddenly showered with lots of love and attention.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Wheaton treated their newest youngster just as they had all of their children. For the first time in Benny's life he felt like he was worth something. But the heavy labor on the farm really took some getting used to. Plowing fields, running fence lines and even animal husbandry was hard work. They had milk cows and horses too and Benny enjoyed being around them.
At first he complained to his new foster dad that his hands were always sore. Blisters were developing from digging post holes and swinging a hammer and a dozen other small jobs, all of which are necessary on a farm.
Carl sat down and talked to Benny, explaining that work is a blessing in more ways than one. The irritation to his hands would soon form calluses and his hands would grow strong. Carl also said, "It is the same with our character. Many times it is the very things that irritate us, which shape our character and help develop a mature and resilient spirit. Irritants can help us grow to be good stalwart people. It is our responses to them that determine whether they will weigh us down or cause us to grow and mature."
Benny finally had the love, acceptance, and safety every child needs. He missed his dad though, and before long, he decided to forgive him. His mind and soul were quickly healing and his life took on meaning and purpose.
Soon, Benny realized the truth of what his new parents were teaching him. His hands were that of a strong, hard working farmer. His character also blossomed into that of a fine young man. He realized what he had found here in his new home was something his father had never had either. The lad spoke to his new family about this.
Benny was fifteen when a strange car motored up the dirt driveway of the farm house. The driver sat for a moment without getting out. Soon, Carl came out and stood beside Benny on the front porch and said, "That's the new farm hand we hired last week."
Then, the new worker stepped from the car and walked up to the porch. As Benny recognized his father a big smile spread across his face. His dad ran to his son and embraced him. All he could say was, "I'm so sorry son."
Benny replied, "It's okay dad. It only served to make be better and stronger."
Benny's dad turned out to be one of the best hands the Wheaton farm had ever known. The environment helped, but it was the display of love and acceptance that made the biggest difference. Benny's father never drank again, and they had adjoining bedrooms in the huge house that was truly a home.
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