At one time or another we have all felt broken, unwanted and useless. Maybe it was the time someone broke up with you in high school or maybe it was as recent as today when it seemed like everything you did was wrong. Whether it was a long time ago or recently, it does not matter. We have all felt inadequate at some point in our lives.    

This is a story for all of us…The Broken.  

It all started three years ago when Pat was given a new task at work. She was to be in charge of the trustees from the local jail who would be working on projects around the Holston Home campus. Anything that needed to be fixed or cleaned could be done by them under Pat’s supervision. Except Pat was less than thrilled to be given the responsibility of taking on the trustees.  

You see Pat, at the time, had her own personal challenges with family that needed tending to and she did not feel like having to deal with more people that “needed” her. She just wanted to go to work, do her job and leave. Being in charge of the trustees was a job she did not think she could handle and she tried every which way to get out of it. 

But, as fate would have it, Pat was now in charge of the trustees.  They painted walls, fixed fences, cleaned fish tanks, watered plants and did anything else that was asked of them. One of the tasks was to help Holston Home with the very difficult job of making the campus beautiful for Christmas.  

Year after year they would pull all the decorations out of storage and help set them up. Every year there was an ugly, broken, faded penguin that could not be used. It was left behind at the maintenance office and kept away from the rest of the nicer decorations. 

Every morning at Christmastime, Pat would pull into her office and see this ugly penguin and think to herself we just need to throw it away. After all, it is broken. Despite Pat’s desire to throw this tired old decoration away, it always made it back into the shed to be stored for next year’s decorations.  

Then one holiday morning this year, Pat pulled into her same parking space and looked at the ugly broken penguin she always looked at, but, this time instead of thinking she needed to throw it out, she was overcome with emotion. 

In a moment of prayer, Pat thought to herself, “That penguin was not good enough, but how many times have I not been good enough?” Still sitting in her car with tears streaming down her face, she exclaimed, “I have been broken, but you have never thrown me away.” 

With renewed spirit, Pat and the trustees set out to bring new life into this old ugly, faded, broken penguin. The trustees took it upon themselves to fix the broken penguin. They named her Octa, after a friend of theirs. They then gave her a fresh coat of paint. Next, they proudly displayed her with scarves and gloves and placed her outside one of the buildings. 

The next morning they dressed her differently and moved her location. This happened for about a week, changing her attire and location, when the youth of Holston, along with the staff, all started to notice. Octa sightings were the talk of the campus! Where would she show up next? What would she be wearing? Who was moving Octa the penguin?  

Lunchtime conversations all revolved around Octa and what she was wearing or where we last saw her. The kids and adults were excited to get their picture made with Octa! This onetime useless, unwanted, broken penguin was now the most popular thing on campus. 

I find great irony in the fact that this was a project the trustees did. Under Pat’s direction, they took it upon themselves to name her, give her a fresh coat of paint, dress her on a daily basis, and change her location. They gave Octa love and a renewed purpose. 

One night last week, Holston Home hosted a holiday dinner for the trustees that work so hard for us all year long. It was a small, quaint gathering of about 40 people that included the Sheriff, some of his staff, the trustees and a few staff of Holston.

Pat played Christmas tunes on the piano and the trustees, whom Pat and all of us have grown to love, stood around her, singing. Looking at them, I realized everyone at some point in their life can use a fresh coat of paint because a little care and love can go a long way. By the way, on this night, the trustees were even more popular than Octa. 

Needless to say, working with the trustees is now Pat’s favorite part of the job. She calls them “her girls” and Octa- well you can catch her out and about cheering up the campus, proving that there is nothing love can’t fix. Life is mysterious. Happy Holidays. 

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