I crept up to the door and knocked.
I was scared -- just a little -- but far too excited to pay the fear
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.)
Larger than life is the image that approached the back door. His low,
raspy voice bellowed out of his warm, smiling face. A smile is all I
needed! 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 set-up. Two chairs, facing each other, on
either side of the square iron floor register. In the center of the
register sat a huge, yellow enamel wash basin filled to the rim with
fresh hot popcorn.
Mr. Hoag knew the way to my heart was through my nose!
I was the undisputed 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
kernel popcorn. On a little wooden stool sat a stack of white paper
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. Our words were
important to him. Our opinions mattered to him. 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.
On the couch, at the other end of the living room was his beautiful
wife, grinning as she watched the parade. Although they had no
children of their own, Mrs. Hoag, an English teacher at my school and
Mr. Hoag were child-friendly folks. They loved us and we could feel
it. Cared for and strengthened, we confidently ran off, treats in
I'm not sure what we loved more... the popcorn, or Mr. Hoag! I do
know that 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 told me of my worth and encouraged me as
best they could. But, typical of a child, I thought they had to say
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, ornery, teddy bear 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
affects will be with us for a lifetime and with our children, too.