Four years ago, a few friends and I decided to change the way we did life in October. I want to explain why I needed to change my Octobers, but if I had to rewrite this story for the fourth time, I would just bag the whole thing altogether. Still, each year we have new followers, and new participants, who deserve to know the whole story. So, I will start at the beginning. There is something very heartbreaking about the beginning. The fact that each year that I do this, the story is always the exact same. That despite all that we have done to change October for us, and for so many people, this story never gets a new ending. It just is.
So instead of trying to change it or rewrite it with a fresh twist, I will take you back to the first time I had the guts to tell my brother's story so publicly, and I will trust my former self to know what she was doing.
Last October, I asked and encouraged whatever participation you can muster. Please share the links to your Facebook pages, and why not tag everyone you know? (Unless you hate kindness.) Spread the word. Do any act of kindness you can, no matter how small. I truly believe that the things we do this month would be acts of kindness that Adam would have spent a lifetime doing. To follow along and contribute to our collective journey, please hashtag #AdamsActs in pictures and posts so we can all see how far reaching an impact our kindnesses can make.
Thank you for allowing me the privilege to share my family's story with you.
I am going to tell you a story.
I haven't done this before, told this story, so detailed and so publicly. But, I am going to try something big this month, and I think I need to tell this story in order to do it well. So, here goes nothin...
It was Halloween night many years ago, and my 17 year old brother, Adam H. Provencal, was driving home from the Regional Championship Soccer game. He was a senior in high school and the captain of the soccer team, and this victory was worth celebrating, and it was news worth spreading for our small Michigan town.
When my brother (and his friend Mike) were driving home and passed some of their friends out playing some harmless Halloween pranks, it was the perfect time to spread the news. So Adam pulled the car over and was telling his friends about the big victory. I have no idea what my brother was thinking or feeling in that moment but, my guess, is freedom. I imagine a boy - crazy about sports, working so hard to maintain his 4.0 GPA in mostly advanced placement classes, editor-in-chief of the nationally recognized school paper, and all-around nice guy - and the pressure that that brings on a kid. I imagine him in this moment, and the hard work (for now) is done and has paid off with a regional championship. And he's free. He is young and free, and he wants to tell to his friends.
So, he pulls over and he and his friends are joking around and talking and hanging out, and they are young and free in this moment.
The whimsical youth of the moment ends when a homeowner comes out and is irate about the pranks and, though my brother had not been involved in them, he had the car and perhaps that made him seem to be the ringleader somehow. I don't really know if that was why Adam felt the need to go to the door or not, but he did. He decided he would walk up to the door, to apologize for being there and to offer to clean up the toilet paper in the yard, and he no longer felt young and free. He was probably terrified that he was going to get in trouble. So, he dutifully walked up to the man's door and knocked twice.
The man did not open the door and hear him out, he did not yell at Adam to leave, he did not call the police. When my 17 year old brother knocked on the door that night to have a hard conversation, he had a baby face and scrawny limbs and braces in his mouth. And when Adam knocked twice on that door, the man gave no warning before he pulled the trigger of his shotgun, sending one, single blast through the closed front door.
One bullet changed many lives, some lives even devastated. But only one life was ended. My only brother, my parents' only son, my hero, my friend... the only person strong enough to jump on a trampoline with me on his shoulders, and the boy who led me to Christ, and taught me to dance like M.C. Hammer, and to be funny enough to joke my way out of trouble. He was gone.
His murderer was in and out of jail after two years, for a boy's life taken in a rage over some harmless pranks.
Needless to say, when October rolls around I get stuck. It is almost like my body involuntarily braces for a trauma. The crisp fall air, the smell of leaves and bonfires... they are all beautiful reminders of fall, and nightmarish triggers that put my physical and emotional self on high alert, tragedy-ready.
So, here we are, heading into the 31 days of October, and I am 34 years old... Not only have I outlived my big brother, but I have now, officially, had twice as much time on this Earth as he did. I need to do something. I need to be productive and I need to spend these 31 days focusing outwardly, or I will implode with my seasonal misery and depression. So, I accepted a challenge, a plan designed to get out of our own heads and focus on other people. 31 days of kindness toward others.
I want to commit myself to honor all the good Adam would have done to the glory of God if his life had not been cut short. I wanted to be just like him when I grew up. Well, here is my chance... 34 is pretty grown up, so here goes nothing.
For Day One, I am sharing this story. I am rallying the people around me to participate, and I am bossing you into participating too.
I wish that for day one I could adequately describe what most of you are missing by not having had the privilege to know my big brother. He was something. Although the story of Adam's death does not change with each year that passes, the way his life inspires me to live mine... well, that can certainly change a lot of things. And over the next 31 days, I will do my best to continue his legacy of kindness. And I hope you will too.