47 Mr. Hoag's Popcorn
I crept up to the door and knocked.
A gruff voice bellowed (just another part of the routine), "Who is it?"
Quietly, I whispered, "It's Nancy, Mr. Hoag."
What do you want? he yelled (as if he doesn't already know). Then a tall old man appeared from the back door, with a warm, smiling face. I am instantly reassured and feel welcomed. In a matter of seconds, I lead my gang of four or five neighborhood kids and two brothers through the house to the living room.
There it was—the complete setup. Two chairs, with a table between them, stood facing each other. In the center of the table sat a huge, yellow enamel basin filled to the rim with fresh hot popcorn.
Mr. Hoag knew the way to my heart was through my nose!
I was the most dedicated popcorn lover of the whole group of kids living on the hill. The aroma filled the air and caused a magnetic attraction... kids and snacks, a natural combination. There was no better smell on earth than Mr. Hoag's home-grown, fluffy, white popcorn.
One by one, we took our turn sitting on the chair opposite this grand man, chatting with him while he fills our bag.
He listened to each one of us with great interest. Whether we told him our troubles or victories, he listened intently . He never made fun of us or what we told him. He said few words but we knew we were valued and worthy of this man's attention. After all, he took the time to make us popcorn and to listen.
We each gave him a heartfelt "Thank you" and a warm hug, even the boys did! Well, except for John and Joey. They were the older ones and Mr.Hoag acknowledged their "big-boy" status with a handshake. We confidently ran off, treats in hand.
I'm not sure what we loved more ... the popcorn, or Mr. Hoag! I do know that my family were poor and I was a scapegoat for my peers at school, with their childish and often painful pranks. My parents loved me and suffered when I came home crying from school. They encouraged me as best they could. But, typical of a child, I thought they had to say all that! They were my Mom and Dad and had to love me.
So, heavenly backup was provided and my self-esteem was restored nightly, by a 75-year-old, ordinary man who knew the power of popcorn. He used that delicious treat to show how he cared for not only me, but for all the neighborhood kids.
I am so thankful that this wonderful man took the time and effort to make a difference in our lives.
Showing interest, acceptance, and love took so little time. But the effects will be with us for a lifetime.