He was happy to be working, even on Christmas. He told me he’d earn time and a half, which is better than his roommate who lost her job last week due to lack of tourist traffic.
Joblessness, that’s the unspoken catastrophe brought on by the #GatlinburgFires. Many have already lost their jobs due to lack of tourist dollars. I am worried about them.
The roads were busy on Christmas day. Lookie-Loos driving with their windows down, cellphone out the window making a video of the carnage. Lookie-Loos from neighboring counties who didn’t stop, didn’t get out of the vehicle, didn’t spend a single dime in the stores.
But in the store where Jack works, the line of people snaked out the door. Fundamentally, I have a problem with a business being open on Christmas, but without it, Jack’s job is in jeopardy. January and February are slow months in Gatlinburg. I am worried about Jack’s job.
He is as well.
He didn’t know I was coming, didn’t see me standing in line like all the other customers. I spoke to the cashier, “tell Jack Renea is here to see him.”
Jack came out from behind the counter, scooped me up and carried me into the main lobby.
My heart filled. I love this boy. He gives me hope. I don’t know what God is up to, but I know it is something good.
He quickly returned to work. I stood across the counter and chatted, asked him about a permanent place.
“Still working on that ma’am,” he said. “Need a thousand saved for a deposit. My roommate got some of the Dolly money, but lost her job the same week.”
Jack is staying with his mom some, his brother some, his friends some. On Christmas I learned that Jack hasn’t had his own bedroom since he was sixteen years old. He sleeps on the couch which I can’t imagine because the boy is tall.
“Things are going to be ok,” he says with such confidence that even I believe it.
“Think we could get a picture together?” I ask.
The door opens and a gaggle of twenty tourists fill the tiny business. Jack beams “it’s been like this all morning. I love it.”
I slide an envelope across the counter. An envelope filled with your donations. The photo can wait. Jack has work to do.
“For your deposit stash,” I say.
He leans across the counter and kisses my cheek. His eyes full of tears.
“Tell everyone . . . “he pauses. “I just don’t know what to say. Tell everyone thanks.”
Renea Winchester is a traditionally-published author of three books. She is a Jesus lover, a gardener, and a giver of hugs. She may be reached at P.O. Box 404, Webster NC 28788