Six years ago I sat in front of my computer and I shared this story for the very first time. Sure, I had told people in my life bits and pieces, but this was the first time that I publicly shared the whole thing. As I sit here now, I am struck by the fact that I struggle each year to re-introduce the same story in a fresh way. But, that's death. Death doesn't change. It is final. The story doesn't evolve, so I find it very difficult to give a fresh introduction.
To be honest, I got sick of that. So, I am starting here at the beginning and I will tell the same story I have told each year. But I am letting this story evolve. It's true that death is final, but that doesn't mean that death gets the last word.
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.
I started doing these acts of kindness because I had to do something. I had to be productive and focus outward or I would implode with this seasonal grief and cyclical depression. I wanted 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. This is why we call them #AdamsActs, because these are the types of things Adam would have spent his life doing. I wanted to be just like him when I grew up. Well, here is my chance... 36 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. You're welcome. This is the sixth October that I have asked and encouraged whatever participation you can muster. Please like and share these blog posts to your social media, and why not challenge everyone you know? (Unless you hate kindness.) Spread the word. Do any act of kindness you can, no matter how small. 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.
As I stated before, this story is no longer a stagnant memory. Death does not get the final word here. This year, I wanted to let hope and redemption get the final word. I wrote a 31 Day Guide to Greater Kindness which is a devotional that will coincide with this month of #AdamsActs. In it, we will explore some of the big, spiritual questions that I have grappled with in the years since my brother's murder.
Downloading my little $1.99 e-book here would be an incredible kindness to me, but whether you choose to explore God's kindness in the face of tragedy and suffering, or if you choose to participate without the companion study, my sincere prayer is that each small act of generosity, encouragement, compassion, thoughtfulness, and kindness will plant seeds of hope, love and healing in a world that could use a lot more of those things. Thank you for allowing me to share my family's story with you. If I can't spend my days watching my brother live out all the remarkable kindness that was in his heart, the next best thing is watching all of you do it in his memory.
In loving memory of Adam H. Provencal. For pointing me toward God's restorative kindness.