“Other than myself, he was always the best of us. To Reid!” Paul Purcell’s sign language speech was received with applause and cheers resounding from friends and family. Paul felt the vibrations of the podium and the floor boards of the stage beneath his feet, the clamor silent on his ears.
The whole town overflowed from the town hall outside into the square on this quiet, breezy evening. Windows and doors opened in the surrounding buildings for all those seated therein to view the proceedings.
Reid Mitchell stood and waved warmly to the gathered people and cheerfully approached the stage. He shook Paul’s hand heartily, waving again to the crowd.
“Thanks, Paul.” Reid signed as Paul took a seat beside the podium.
Reid signed, “It was thought Dawson’s Oil would never work. Many fought it vehemently at the start, rejecting it as a fraudulent form of living. Those who opposed Dawson fought for their own ends. To maintain their wealth. To keep their “independence.” But our community won by sheer force of momentum and the undying efforts of Richard Dawson. Thanks to His resolve, He broke the back of the old system, allowing everyone to be free to live life as they choose.” The audience cheered in agreement with his opening statements.
“Thanks to His Soil our community is thriving! We all do our part for each other, and we are all cared for in the process. Now that I have graduated high school, my application was accepted! I intend to give back to all of you by working at the finest place of all, Dawson’s Plant!”
Loud applause and cheers from the crowd. His Mother, on the front row, dabbed at a tear in her eye, smiling proudly. Reid met her eyes with his winning grin. She clapped enthusiastically, and his Father put an arm around her shoulders, smiling broadly.
Reid continued, “As we all know, the only real side effect of Dawson’s Oil was not initially apparent. This side effect took the form of the children born with Deafness. A sizable percentage, in fact. Thanks to this development, I have my best friend, and neighbor, Paul.”
Reid welcomed Paul back to the podium, and signed,
“The great Richard Dawson has, in turn, lovingly allowed applicants with Deafness special consideration for the Plant. All this to say, I could not be more excited to be accepted alongside my buddy Paul to work at the Plant!”
The two young men both clapped and bowed, receiving the adoration and cheerful applause of every person in town they had known since childhood. Any reservation Reid had been harboring about his decision to work at the Plant was washed away in the warmth and love pouring over him at this moment. He finally released his final strand of apprehension, his anxiety of never knowing the Soil’s effects personally. He finally accepted, with full resolve, his Contract Deferral. All employees were required to abstain from the Soil in order to work at the Plant. This final tension in his mind left him, and he was at peace.
The sun had set, and the sky glowed with hues of purple and orange. The open square illuminated with strings of lights swinging carelessly in the breeze, hanging from building to building and between lamp posts.
“I remember when you used to take a long wooden board and lean it against the front porch, calling it your bridge. Walking up and down it all day long and playing on it with your trucks. You were always such a cheerful, imaginative son.” Paul’s Mother, Maria, signed as she stood before the crowd. She shared her story with the gathering as they ate their meals following the ceremony.
“And when you would try to carry the milk in from the car after grocery shopping. The bottle was as big as you were. You were so determined to get the bottle in the house, and you would feel so bad when you dropped it. It would break, and we’d have to go back to the store again. I could see the tears welling up in your eyes, and we would make up for it by eating some ice cream.” She laughed and sniffled as she recounted her story, meeting Paul’s eyes. He wiped at his own face, smiling through his embarrassment.
“I will always love you, Paul. I’m already so proud of who you’ve become. Go out there and show Dawson who you are. To our boys, Paul and Reid!”
The entire town cheered with good will at her thoughts, and she took her seat beside Paul’s father, Dean, who embraced her warmly. Dean smiled to her and rose to share his thoughts for the evening.
Dean looked to the boys and signed, “I love you, Son- and you, Reid. You two have chosen a very difficult path. My path to choosing Dawson’s Oil was clear. I had every reason to begin taking the Soil. It changed my life. The secret of the Contract is to get you to take your first leap of commitment to this intangible concept of something greater. Only then was I able to understand fully committing to your Mom. Fully committing to you. Fully committing to family, friends, and this life. I have no regrets and a life full of love and happiness mixed in with all the tough choices.
Here is my challenge to you.
You are not going to have the luxury of the Soil’s help, or the Contract, while working at the Plant. So, you will have to find your own reasons for living. This is something with which I am unable to help you.
But, I can say this: The things you do at any one point are immaterial. Anyone can work a job or perform the functional tasks at the Plant. You must discover why you are doing it. You get to decide what matters to you and why. Whatever you discover, whatever your ‘why’, commit 100%. Anything held back from your full effort, and you risk regrets. You then withhold yourself from the full experience of life and its rewards.
Refuse to think of choices by what they’ll cost you but by the possibilities of what you can do with them. Your choices are your tools to leverage life for yourself and for others’ benefit or detriment.
I believe you will be great in this world, and I am simply thrilled to witness the life upon which you are about to embark. Go, and make this world just that much better.”
Despite Reid’s exuberant receipt of this message, Paul felt a coldness inside. He did not feel special because of his acceptance to the Plant. His father’s message unnerved him. He felt an uneasy expectation of how great everyone said it would be. He felt a distinct disconnect between his emotions right now and how he had been expecting to feel. His mind blurred in panic, terrified as the impact of his choice landed squarely on his shoulders.
Outwardly, he smiled and slapped Reid on the back in his cheery, nonchalant way.
What have I done? He thought.