Where Are You Joe?

With Mother’s Day coming up, I can’t help but see the blessings I have as a mom.  Every year on this special day, I know exactly what to expect from Tom and the kids.  And I love it each and every time.  I get to sleep in that morning.  When I wake up, I’m served my favorite breakfast of nutella and banana crepes topped with whipped cream and a side of thick-slab bacon.  My usual Americano coffee is always hot and waiting.  When the kids were little, they would give me big hugs and kisses before they presented me their little hand-made cards.  Now that they’re teenagers, my son will flash me his white smile while my daughter will ask me to do a Tik Tok with her. Yes, I feel blessed indeed.  But there’s a part of me that feels guilty for what God has given me when I know there are others out there who are not as fortunate.

With April being National Child Abuse Prevention Month, I started thinking about a friend I met in culinary school years ago that I’ll call Joe.  At the time, Joe was 20-years old.  I didn’t meet him until I was in my final quarter at culinary school.  We were in a couple of classes together.  The first time I saw Joe, I thought he was a bit arrogant and I questioned whether he truly had any culinary abilities.  He threw pots and pans around like he knew what he was doing but I knew better when I saw how he mishandled beautiful sea scallops like it was chopped liver.

As I got to know Joe better, I found him to be a friendly, helpful and sincere person.  He wasn’t the best cook, but he tried.  Unfortunately, not everyone saw what I saw. He was picked on mercilessly by a number of the students.  Joe just didn’t know how to stick up for himself.

One time, I noticed that Joe had been absent for several days and I wondered where he was.  He finally showed up late to class one morning and quickly slid into a chair. During a break, I asked Joe where he’d been and he said he had not been able to sleep.  I assumed it was from late-night partying and that he just couldn’t get up for class.  He said no and rolled up his coat sleeve.  There, on his arm, were signs of being mistreated at home.  My heart was very sad for him and I didn’t know what to say.

Over the course of the rest of the quarter, I got a number of opportunities to talk with Joe about his situation.  With the help of a couple of friends, I was able to get Joe contact information about a support shelter just in case he ever needed it.  I could tell by the look in his eyes that he was grateful.  Labs finally ended and I was now officially done with culinary school.

And that was the last time I saw or heard from Joe.

Every now and then, I wished that I could have stayed in contact with Joe.  I would have loved to introduce him to Tom and the kids and see what he was up to.  As I sit and write, I wonder how Joe is doing and whether he ever called the number on the card that I gave him.