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Do You Hear What I Hear?

“But you never listen to me!” “You’re not listening to me right now!” “Don’t you ever listen?” “What do you mean that paper is due today?!” Hmm, sound familiar? Does not everyone wish they had listened better and saved themselves a couple of hours of needless fights, lover’s spats, arguments, and parental lectures? How many times, in the middle of an exam, have students wished they had listened just a little bit closer to the professor’s lecture? Better listening skills are an area everybody struggles with, starting with the first people in the garden. The issue lies not only with what people hear, but also with how their minds retain the information. There is more to listening than just the act of hearing the words.

While students may listen, the information can go out of their ears just as fast as it came in. Many students fall victims to this ‘hearing but not listening’ concept only to later be shocked when they find out an assignment was indeed due that day. A Google search of the word ‘listen’ defines it as making an effort to notice and to act.

To improve listening skills, people need to simply stop speaking. Stop speaking out loud, quiet all the random bits of conversations zooming around in their mind, take their eyes off the heated Trivia Crack battle on their phone, and pay attention to the speaker. Yes, listening takes some degree of concentration. Do not be overly confident with multitasking abilities.

Concentrated listening includes actively listening while the mind is absorbing the information. Do not assume that because a sermon or lecture sounds familiar, it is alright to slack off. Even experts listen since there are always more things they could learn about. Practicing concentrated listening in class is actively processing the lecture, analyzing it in the mind, asking questions, and trying to understand the information in one’s own terms. Whether the lecture was really fascinating or ridiculously dry, going over the information increases the chance that people will remember the information. Active listening saves people the stress of re-learning the subject, as they will not have to work hard at recalling the materials since they have done their job in class and listened to the professor’s explanations. Contributing to the conversation also helps solidify information in the brain.

Shannon Doyne, the author of an article found on the The New York Times website**, states, “Listening tunes our brain to the patterns of our environment faster than any other sense.”  It is sad that people are often inattentive to what is going on around them. Sometimes, they assume that they know what the speaker is about to say or they are prejudiced against the speaker (she’s a drama queen, he’s from the North, what do they know?) and choose to tune out the speaker. Other times, people let their minds wander off.

Another definition of ‘listen’ is to give attention to sounds. Listen to the way the words are enunciated, how the syllables are drawn out, the loudness or softness with which the words are spoken. Doyne points out in her article, “The richness of life doesn’t lie in the loudness and the beat, but in the timbres and the variations that you can discern if you simply pay attention.” Are those hints of sarcasm in her voice or was she just simply just joking in the name of good humor? Listen not only to the sounds but to the nonverbals- the way the other person is standing, the hint of humor or sadness in the eyes. Do their actions match their words? Over ninety percent of communication is nonverbal communication. Being able to differentiate these things in people’s voices and actions can save people a whole lot of trouble, heart ache, and misunderstanding. People feel appreciated when they are listened to, not just heard.

Learn to listen before it is too late, and before more people find themselves standing in the shoes of the boy who cried wolf, who heard only the stern admonishment and angry grumblings of the villagers he tricked but never really learned to listen to their warnings.

Students, we’d love your feedback and input:

  • What are the daily challenges to sustaining good listening in your life: noise, distraction, or something else?
  • Why do you feel like your listening skills are getting better or worse?
  • What aspects of your life might be different if you had better listening skill

*Photo credit: http://www.d.umn.edu/~cspiller/csd8235/listensymbol.html

**http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/12/how-would-your-life-be-different-if-you-had-better-listening-skills/?_r=0 (“How Would Your Life Be Different if You Had Better Listening Skills?” by Shannon Doyne).

 

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Generosity: The Thing in September

Waves of tweed were strung from the elbows of bent metal nails. With small rings of wire, Cassidy had strung the synopsis of her childhood in photographs. The child had wide gray eyes and short, dusty lashes. A sly, small smile lit up her face in every picture. Large bows and extravagant toys characterized each snapshot, as if taken from the life of a more ideal child. She was cupped in the embrace of a woman, who had the grace of a girl. She was blond, upright, and loved to take photos on top of wide lakes, in green pastures, among glorious cathedrals and under towering forests. Her clothes defined her, and she longed for them to be a character of her story. The story of a hidden mother and her hidden daughter.

“Have you tried the dress on?” I held it as a layer over her, at which she shrunk. “I think it would match your eyes perfectly.”

“No. It’s not my thing.” She went to her piano.

“How can you make it and it not be your thing?” I snuggled beside her on the piano bench, despite the growing discomfort I sensed from her. She quietly tapped away at the melody of Mary, Did You Know? while I evaluated her. “I think that you’re speaking from a lack of self-confidence.”

She peered at me, not quitting her playing.

“You’re a beautiful girl, Cassidy. You’re also very sweet and super giving, but no one really knows because you are always busy hiding from people.”

“I have good reasons.”

“…For hiding from people?”

“Yes. People are out to get me.”

I giggled in my throat. “What makes you say that?”

She only whispered four words, “The thing in September.”

That is how she referred to it. It made sense.

“You should have this,” I offered.

A flash of dismay ran across her face before she gently responded. “No, that’s OK. You can have it.”

“Cassidy, oh… I can’t. Not when you have so much potential. You could surprise everyone.”

She sighed. I knew my moment was opportune. I folded the dress in her lap. “You don’t have to be afraid of anyone. No one is out to take everything away from you. We’re the same size, have this.”

She rubbed the handmade dress in her palm, admiring the way the separate layers of fabric moved together. “OK,” she whispered, laying it across the top of her keyboard before she began with one hand to play the melody of Silent Night.

“This fabric is really nice. How did you get it?”

“What do you mean ‘how’?”

I cringed inwardly, knowing I had mixed up my words. “What I meant was… I was just surprised that you took the effort to make my gift that nice.”

“Well, you’re a pretty cool girl, and I thought you deserved a nice dress.”

“…And yet you never create nice things for yourself?”

“Nice things and I don’t really get along.

“Nonsense. What about your piano?”

She stopped playing.

“It’s beautiful. You haven’t destroyed it. I say you get along great.”

“It was my mother’s.” she answered. “It’s the only thing of hers that survived.”

“Oh…” I was unsure of how to respond. “What happened to the rest of her things?”

“Moth and rust doth corrupt,” was her answer.

“I… what?”

“Never mind.” She continued playing. “My dad always said she was materialistic. Our house was small, but crowded with things. Nice things. My mother believed pretty clothes and possessions was nothing short of an investment in life.” Cassidy’s eyes darted as she tried to quickly pass the memories of her mother through her head, before they resided and saddened her. “My dad once said I’m paying for the sins of my mother. He’s probably right.”

The confusion was deeper than it had been before her explanation. “Cassidy, what are you talking about?”

“The thing in September.”

“What does that have to do with your mother?” I whispered.

Her eyes flew up, a moment of dawning smitten on her face. “Abigail, take the dress.”

“No. I told you. You can have it.”

“Abigail.” She stood up quickly and swiped it off the hood of the piano, tossing it into my lap.

“Cassidy.” I unfolded the dress. “Calm down. Everything is fine…”

I gasped as something soft hit the ground. The ribbon that had been around the waist slowly fluttered away from the dress, and the soft fabric underneath fell away. I flipped the slowly deteriorating dress in my hand.

“How? When…”

The thread was severed and coiled as it loosened itself from the seams. The garment that had been put together with artful mastery had fallen apart as if it had never been put together.

Cassidy looked at the heap, sympathetic but knowing. “Nice things and I really don’t get along.”

 Heart

The Thing in September was this:

Holly Manson was a figure of mortal perfection and moral chaste. Her eyes disappeared when she smiled, but rippled a sea blue/green color against her radiant stare. An air of humanistic glory served as her sauna and she worked involuntarily to douse everyone else in her blessing. In-mid September, she found a brief noble mission and sneaked into Cassidy’s room with a peach paper bag underarm.

The weather was slowly approaching the line where it was not necessarily cold, but it was enough of an excuse for students to model over-sized sweaters and leather boots in a wearily overwhelming degree. Cassidy had stuck to her black knit and sneakers until Holly had visited her room, after which I noticed she had access to more patterned cardigans and wraps.

Sometime in the following week Cassidy’s room had been overturned and thrown into the hallway in a mysterious attack of what seemed to be rage. She managed to get everything back in decent order, but was quickly back to her black knit.

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“I Have a Dream. . .”

Racism is a problem that every country has faced and continues to face today. Although several countries have become more tolerant of different races, racism has not disappeared. Racism is defined as “poor treatment of or violence against people because of their race” by Merriam-Webster Dictionary. It does not only single out Black people, but Whites, Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, Europeans, Middle-Eastern people, etc. Also, racism is not only between people of different colored skin, but also those with different cultural backgrounds. It involves everyone, not only Caucasians and African Americans. Racism has been prevalent in this world from the beginning of mankind. Despite the fact that there has been a substantial decrease in racial segregation since the 1960’s, there still remains a number of people who have negative feelings toward different races. This hatred for skin color should come to an end.

Throughout history, there have been many cases where one culture would discriminate against another. In Ancient Egypt, the Jews were enslaved by the Egyptians. In America, Chinese people were used as railroad workers because of the dangerous working conditions. During World War II, the Jews, the Gypsies, the Polish, and many others were murdered and encamped. These are not the only examples of racism in history.  There were also instances where people of the same skin color would hate each other. In the United Kingdom, there was a feud between the Catholics and Protestants which led to a bloody war. During the age of exploration to different lands, the Europeans discriminated against the Natives. Even though history has proven that in many instances, racism  has led to bloody battles, it still continues to exist to this day.

Why is there a rift in society between people with different characteristics? Why does the world cease to get along? There is one explanation as to why such a thing still exists; this world is fallen. From the Fall of mankind to this very day, sin has been present in this world. Prior to the Fall, everything was perfect and fruitful; God was directly reachable. Before there was sin in this world, Adam and Eve did not even realize their own nakedness, and they did not notice their differences. This world is full of hate for people who are just like each other. Every human has a heart, a mind, a spirit, and a soul. Everyone on this earth has the right to be called a person; not a thing or  property. Racism continues to exist because pride gets in the way. Certain people might look at another ethnic group and elevate themselves in the racial hierarchy, because they tend to look at the superficial human being instead of the emotional one.

Racism is not an acceptable practice and it needs to be annihilated. People should come together as brothers and sisters and unite as one. People need to love, accept, and respect their neighbors. God created this world with a purpose of unity and love, but sin has torn this world apart. To fight against this injustice, people should accept their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. The skin color of a person should not be the determining factor of love. Every individual deserves to be cherished and treated equally. God created every human in His own image. He put time and thought into creating each and every person. As a follower of Christ, it is important to treat everyone with gentleness and respect. This world could drastically change the face of racism if everyone will come together and learn to live in harmony. Just as Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream several decades ago, this world should dream to not just coexist, but to love, protect, and trust one another.

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Sadie Comes A-Calling

YEEHAW! The Sadie Hawkins Hoedown was a huge success with its fun dancing, exciting atmosphere, and beautiful decorations. Energy swept through the Hoedown and made it impossible to resist dancing to the exhilarating beat of the music. The laughter and fellowship gave way to a memorable Friday night and allowed all to relax after a busy week of school.

The soft candlelight that gently ascended down the outside staircases provided an attractive entrance that drew people into the thrilling atmosphere. The music and dancing harnessed a character of simplicity and elegance that gave a relaxing vibe to the room. Proudly sporting their flannel shirts and cowboy boots, students danced their hearts away to the rhythm of the music. Furthermore, the couples dancing style allowed people to meet others as each would spin and swing their partners to the next dancer.

As beaming smiles and ceaseless dance engulfed the night, this Toccoa Falls College event revealed a family established in the center of the dance floor. There was an inviting light that illuminated the area and the smell of a campfire breezed through the people. When asked what one thought of the dance when they first walked in, Lauryne Hill said, “It was not what I was expecting, it was beautiful.”

Mason jars and lights gave a country feel to the tables on one side of the large space. Around the room were colorful streamers that twirled above. The sparkling lights that smoothly hung from the ceiling gave the room a cozy glow. Hay bales, games, food, and dancing made the Hoedown a fresh and exciting start for the spring semester. The Sadie Hawkins Hoedown was a fantastic, creative event possessing a warm community and generous feel.

The patient dance instructors were very helpful as they carefully provided step-by-step instructions to make everyone feel involved. Let the word “patient” be greatly emphasized as these instructors endured the lack of formal dance skills from the students. Step-by-step, students would follow the dance instructors to the best of their ability. Brooke Colston said, “My favorite dance was the Too Tee Ta,” a dance that provided clear instructions and lots of laughter when everyone had to stick out their tongues, close their eyes and sing, “A Too Tee, Ta” repeatedly. Everyone had a great laugh towards those who stumbled. “Triple step, triple step, shimmy and slide” were all terms that were very hard to follow with the fast rhythm of the music. Nevertheless, everyone was able to laugh at each other when they looked ridiculous on the dance floor. Once students accomplished a part of the dance, each would shout, “Yeehaw!”, “Hallelujah!”, and “Yes!” This made learning the dances even more entertaining and filled with amusement. The very essence of community was demonstrated at the event. It was special because students were able to build relationships and surround themselves with loving people.

The Hoedown was filled to the rim with spectacular features of fun dancing and entertaining people. As the dance ended, people seemed unable to shake off their dancing mood no matter how exhausted they were. The dancing continued with cowboy boots skipping and dancing all the way back to campus and into the city. Events like the Sadie Hawkins Hoedown are important to our community because it provides a way for people to meet others and impact each other’s lives. Hanging out and having a good time at events like these, initiates friendships that last a lifetime. The Sadie Hawkins Hoedown truly exemplifies what Toccoa Falls models, creating a community that values relationships and shares the gospel with others.

 

 

*featured image provided by Bailey Crosby*

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Empower 2015

The Community Projects committee at Toccoa Falls College is providing another way for students to serve and build relationships in the city of Toccoa. The committee has been trying to find a way to serve the poor and homeless and Shirley’s Soul Food Cafe is a great starting point.

Shirley’s Soul Food Cafe, located on West Currahee Street, serves lunch from 11am to 2pm every weekday. What many people do not know is that at 2pm Shirley’s provides lunch for the homeless and the leftover food is delivered to shut-ins. However, it does not stop there; Miss Shirley also runs a men’s homeless shelter.

Often, desires and goals are put in hearts, but there is no quick and easy way of pursuing them. Many people use this as an excuse to do nothing at all. Director of Service and Outreach, Faith Champion is quoted saying,either we step out not knowing or not at all, and not knowing is simply just an excuse.” There are needy people living in the hotels of Toccoa; it is Community Projects ultimate goal to minister in these hotels. However, this cannot be reached without much time and planning. By starting at Shirley’s, Community Projects is taking an immediate step towards that future goal. Director of the committee, Heather Shemery, believes that Shirley’s is “a really cool opportunity to build connections and to lead into what we’re wanting to do.”

In the past, Empower has been an outreach event put on once a year by Community Projects. This usually included giving away turkeys to families in Toccoa. This year, Empower has developed and is going in a different direction.  It will be a weekly opportunity to provide empowerment to those in need by forming relationships with them.

This outreach would take place at Shirley’s Soul Food Cafe every Thursday from 1:25pm- 2:20pm. Those who go will be working with the homeless who arrive for the lunch Miss Shirley provides. One might think that they have nothing in common with the poor and the needy. However, Faith Champion made a powerful point,

“Our lives are so different, yet our needs are the same.”

Everyone has the same desperate need for Christ. TFC campus members can use this opportunity to show the love of Christ through building relationships. This could involve helping where it is necessary, sitting down at a table and having conversations, or simply offering a smile. Community Projects is looking for people who are willing to take the time and understanding that is required to make these connections.

There will be an informational meeting held this Wednesday, February 11, at 7:45pm. It will be located on campus in the student lounge. Heather Shemery will be sharing the vision of Community Projects. Anyone who is interested is encouraged to come, even those who are not sure this ministry will fit their schedule.

Also, Tuesday and Wednesday, there will be an Empower table set up in the student center at lunch time. At the table, students can sign up for updates on the ministry. Signing up does not obligate commitment, but is a way of staying informed.

Those who cannot attend the informational meeting or have further questions can email Heather at heathershemery@tfc.edu.

 

 

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TFC Basketball Gearing up for Regionals

The basketball season here at Toccoa Falls College is coming near to its end, and both the men’s and women’s teams are gearing up for their regional tournaments.

The Lady Screaming Eagles won both home games this past weekend, bringing their overall record to 9-13. They have been playing well lately, as they have posted a 4-2 record over their last six games, with all four wins coming at home. In fact, the Lady Screaming Eagles are making TFC a tough place to play for all opponents, as they are 8-2 at home on the year.

This year’s squad features three seniors, Katie Calloway, Esther Shady, and Rachel Morris, and all three have done their part to provide leadership both on and off the court. Calloway, averaging 9.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, and Shady averaging 9.4 points and 9.1 rebounds make up the starting frontcourt for the Lady Screaming Eagles, while Morris who averages 2.1 points and shoots 38% from the three point line, comes off the bench to play valuable minutes and run point for the second unit.

The Lady Screaming Eagles are 2-1 in their region so far, and have three region games left to play.

The men’s basketball team won three of four games at home over the weekend, including big wins over region opponents Clearwater Christian and Johnson University of Florida. After their successful homestand, the Screaming Eagles record is now 12-10. They have also been playing well of late, as they have now won five of their past nine games, and are 6-3 at home this season.

The men’s team has three seniors this year: Josh “Red” Barrett, Jon Sauls, and Derek Westfall, with Barrett and Westfall being four-year starters at TFC. Barrett is leading the team with 19.8 points and 5.6 assists per game, Sauls is averaging 14.2 points while making a team leading 63 three pointers on 38% from deep,  and Westfall helps to anchor the middle by averaging 13.4 points and 5.1 rebounds a game on 52.5% shooting.

Head Coach, Jason Mehl, is pleased with the way his team has played so far, but is always looking for ways to improve in order to achieve the teams ultimate goal. “The big picture priority is always winning a region championship and the regular season games need to be preparing us for that,” Mehl said. “With the exception of a couple of games, most of our games, win or loss, have made us better.”

The improvements the team has made this season, especially in terms of rebounding and defense, have helped them to a 4-2 record in region play, with four more region games left.

One of the big reasons why both teams have performed so well at home is the increase in fan support, especially that of the students. The men and women both rely on pressure defense and up-tempo offense, and the motivation and momentum they get from the often times exuberant crowd really seems to propel them to victory, while also rattling the opposing team.

Something else that the students have been doing to help boost attendance is to have different themes for the games. For example, in last Thursday’s home win over Clearwater, students were encouraged to dress up for “Hillbilly” night, and the results were incredible. They came in wearing overalls, hats, American flags, carrying banjos, and one student even brought a life-size plastic deer. Overall, the support they gave the teams helped them to beat TFC’s rival, and both teams hope to have that kind of support for the rest of the season.

The Screaming Eagles and Lady Screaming Eagles both play their last home games on February 13th and 14th. To keep up to date with everything that is going on, feel free to like TFC’s athletic page on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/TFCathletics), as well as the student section’s page (https://www.facebook.com/screamingeaglesstudentsection).

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Generosity: The Principle of the Heart

There was a boy, William, whom Cassidy loved. A boy whom she thought she loved, of course. He was a sophomore of a humanly plain temperament and features so simplistically unremarkable that his utter protagonist-like potential won Cassidy’s naïveté. The greatest demonstration of her captivation was of that which kept her in a steady line behind him as he turned a corner, at which she thought- this is good. He is going the same place I am going. The next turn was also her intention, but at the last turn she had forgotten to isolate her movement, letting him hold the door open for her.

“Thanks,” she said, trying to sound casual while biting the inside of her mouth to keep the corners from turning upward.

“Hi,” he looked her directly in the eye with a friendly but intentional glare.

“Hi,” Cassidy responded, surprised at his directness. As surprise leads to suspicion and suspicion leads to realization, she looked around. In a panicked suddenness she sprung out of the doorway and into the more appropriate girl’s restroom across the hall with a face pulsing red with blood.

I saw this happen. I also saw this boy holding hands with Aria Tarasuoa publicly for the first time a week-and-a-half later. I saw Cassidy speak with the two of them, smiling and laughing naturally, for the most part.

These are my most vivid recollections of Cassidy D’albertis, which is probably a terrible truth on my own part.

Heart

It was the middle of December, Gloria in Excelsis Deo was wafting through the walls, and the smell of vomit was exceptionally pungent. It would have been the perfect gothic backdrop. I would have approved.

Smoke titrated with sweat mingled in the space above my lip. The atmosphere was thick, cold, and damp to an unhealthy degree. In the near corner, a faucet or cup dripped. Something dripped- I had no way of knowing what. An isolated light source flickered, accompanied by a rhythmic buzz. The windows were shaded with sheets, the walls with dampness, and the floor with something crunchy.

By the time the music was loud enough for me to realize that it was behind the cluttered screen door located at the back wall, the arrangement had become more diverse. Porcelain dishes were shuffled in with stained paper plates, stacked and adorned with transparent cutlery. Disregarded food was sprinkled in between here and every other place. Among the items responsible for the odor were men’s shirts, rusted mechanical tools, and wrinkled sheets of paper inked with indiscernible jargon.

With my gloved hand I swept away dead pines caught in the back door screen and peaked out. The wide back porch had been dressed to an overall bohemian patchwork impression. Fairy lights crisscrossed overhead in a wild spider web. Around the posts Cassidy had tied scarves and bandannas and large ethnic blankets had been hitched in one way or another in a display. Well maintained flowerbeds hung in various and queer but creative nooks. In one corner, her chrome, yellow bike rested casually. In the center, strangely out of place but superiorly  beautiful rested a full parlor grand piano, at which Cassidy was obliviously seated, pecking away skillfully at O Holy Night. I watched for a few more seconds before coughing.

Her eyes flew up to meet mine, abruptly halting her melody. I could already begin to see the space under her eyes reddening.

“Abigail…I… what are you doing- hi!” she stumbled.

I giggled. “I wanted to thank you for the dress.”

“Yes… yes of course I…” she stood up smoothing out her unfashionably oversized sweater and tights. “Hi.” She repeated.

“Hi.” I mimicked. “Anyway, I wasn’t really doing anything today and I thought I’d stop by and hang out. Chill. Talk. You know. We could talk about the dress or- your hidden piano talent-“

“Oh no that’s no good.” Cassidy broke in quickly. “That’s really just for me.”

I gave a flattering wave. “Seriously? You’re amazing. Why don’t you ever play in school?”

“Playing for people isn’t really my thing… hey. Are you sure you wouldn’t rather go somewhere else and-“

“No way!” I made a few jubilant leaps across the deck. “Look at this place. Look at this dress.” I pulled it out of its bag at the moment, swirling it around in its own glory. “You have good taste. Where did you get it?”

“Actually,” she lowered her voice to a minimum, “I made it.”

I stopped spinning, searching her face. “Mmmmm, no. You didn’t,” I teased.

“Oh, um. I did. I kinda-“

“That’s amazing! What other hidden talents do you have?” Cassidy choked as I flipped the dress inside and out, looking closely it stitches and seems, and just now noticing there was a lack of a tag. “What else have you made? Can I see?”

“No, I don’t really keep that stuff around.”

“Is it all back at school? I don’t usually see you wearing stuff this nice.”

“Not exactly my thing…”

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Generosity

I: An Angelic Sense of Desperation

My fingers caressed the new, soft dress in an infatuated manner, and for a moment- one infinite moment that borrowed the all-encompassing embodiment of time- I let the gift be the most beautiful thing in the world.

The sleeves fell delicately at elbow’s length, firm and translucent. With my eyes, I traced the seam toward the shoulders and down to the innocent, wide-U neckline. The top half fit over, ceasing with an elegantly wavy chest seam. The curve of the hips dipped just in time for the fun skirt to wave on perfect tone to the wind. The plump, cotton fabric seemed to melt in my hand. A pastel peach hue drizzled with a creamy white floral print seduced my eyes. I felt myself drift into a daze.

Bringing the cloth to my nose eventuated in the smell of subway perils filling my nostrils. Sweat, mingled with the damp, thin air and the general musk of humanity moving on clockwork wafted through the crevices of the dress. A tinge of the fresh, frigid, upper-Georgian mountain air coexisted reluctantly with the underground odor. Lastly, a hint of dollar-store perfume lingered: the result of my gift giver’s futile attempt to mask all previous smells.

It took my gift giver two hours to get here by bus.

The Atlanta underground system was not a perilous place, a depressive place, or a place prone to leave a girl vulnerable to the judgments and realities of the world. Rather, it was a place where artistic expression displayed itself in everyone’s eyes, and where the most complex of thoughts clouded the brick tunnels. The most fragile emotions and complicated feelings of humanity could be tasted.

My gift giver had made her way through these tunnels earlier today; bag buried under her coated arm, with the gift, my dress, in it. The train system was familiar to her, and there was no longer the residence of fear, worry, or over-the-shoulder peaking. There were only thoughts which added to the intellectual soup. Such that, any other who knew the exact reason she was making a two-hour-long journey would assume her motive was generosity. But a native of the underground system would know that it was something more like desperation, trying to convince itself it was generosity.

To prove it simply: generosity would not travel on the metropolitan system for two hours to travel a thirty-minute driving-distance to my home to assure getting here before the peak of the flurry of the holidays. Nor would generosity venture out, knowing that the system does not come to my neighborhood, because the system wants to keep the homeless out of this area. Generosity would not hop on its bike and trek two icy miles down sidewalks, up hills, and over slush-covered concrete until it reached the front door of my little suburban home and knock, making sure to wipe off the fragile tears from its flower basket before I answered. Only an angelic kind of desperation would do that.

“Cassidy?” I had exclaimed as I answered the door, hair in a lazy heap, very surprised.

“Merry Christmas, Abigail,” her small voice rang as she held out the bag.

It was a small day, or so I assumed. It seemed happy when I unfolded the dress, and let out an involuntary “squeeh”; when I thanked her repeatedly, and her small albino-like cheeks went pink. It seemed small as I twirled it in front of my parents, and they clapped, and petted Cassidy, and asked her how she was, and she lied. It seemed casual as she ate with us what my mom had cooked: a chore which she had neglected to do yesterday, because my mother strives to please guests. All seemed right when she headed back out to complete another two hours back.

A week after that with a week until Christmas, all seemed right, as I sat in room vainly caressing my dress, to go out and give her a visit. I would thank her again for the gift.

Heart

It took me thirty minutes to get there by truck.

The address had been easy enough to find through multiple contacts. The condition of the neighborhood, however, told me that none of the contacts had ever been here.

Within a mile of point-B, I had driven into more of a run-down ghost town than anything else. Several old, rusty cars aligned each driveway. Three or four large, obnoxious dogs, surprised to witness a functioning vehicle, snapped after my tires, running along beside me until I overtook their chain length. Rugged, greasy houses aligned both sides of the uprooted road. Cigarette butts and beer bottles adorned each wet, slimy lawn.

The target of Cassidy’s address was less exciting. A variety of grasses stretched toward the sky, untamed, texturing the concrete above it. The makeshift home floated on top of insecure foundation, pressed against the bough-clouded backdrop in a reluctant state of consent. The textile of the structure displayed an unnatural stain, while its tinted windows denied passage to light.

My car teetered uneasily in the alleged driveway, providing me time to question whether an angel could live in this underground cavern. The engine then quieted just enough for the piano performance of Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee pouring through the windows to reach my ear. Somehow, I was at the right place.