By: Rob Brayl
For BiggerThanBeyonce.Com

Hear me out on this one:

I’m back in New York with this sitting on my mantle and I feel compelled to share the story behind it.

I bought this handmade piece yesterday at the Abingdon Flea Market in Abingdon, Virginia (near my hometown of Richlands, VA). The minute I saw it, I was drawn to it. It stirred something in me. As a writer, I found it poetic and layered. As a person, one who often goes against the grain of society, I related to it.

“I’m a piece of forbidden fruit,” I thought to myself and laughed. Rough around the edges, abnormal, wild and full of life. I may not fit in or ever feel like I truly belong back home, but in my forbiddenness and rebellion, I think I’ve allowed myself the freedom to create something sweet (jam!) out of my ever-so-imperfect life.

The first time I saw it, I passed it up. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so as we were heading for the car (after looking through the entire warehouse), I went back to grab it. And when I did, this lovely country woman (who made it; Anne Wampler of Fire Light Candles to be exact) strikes up a conversation: “I noticed you when you first walked in. How tall are you, sweetie?” I answered. She then asked where I’m from, and I replied: “I’m originally from these parts. I’m visiting family for the holidays, but I now live in New York. Believe it or not.”

She instantly lit up. She then opened up to me about her 13-year-old son, who just came out of the closet and how she worries about him constantly because he gets bullied quite a bit at school. She said he had dreams of visiting New York one day because he loves musical theatre.

I immediately knew that I was meant to meet this woman.

She asked if she could give him my info because she knew I had been in the same situation years ago. I obliged. I told her if he ever needs to talk to someone he can always reach out to me. She was thrilled.

Going back home may be like crawling into an old wound for me, but it’s a place that is forever a part of me. And I’m grateful for the people there who embrace me with open arms.

Whenever I look at this, I will think of this kid and pray that people are kind to him.

My mom always tells me: “Rob, you can’t save the world.” And man, have I learned how true that is. But if I can save just one person, if I can make their life have meaning and hope, I think that’s all that really matters.

So blessed for the people God has brought into my life over the past few months, and so excited for another year of unexpected encounters.

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