Gravity had done a number on Rainie’s soul. Rainie’s shoulders were desperate for the ground, sagging, groping to heave onto the earth and cease their labor. It’s a mighty burden to carry a life’s worth of disappointment and failed attempts and outright foolishness. It’s a mighty burden to look back and see clearly what might have been, what should have been.

For years, Rainie made excuses. For more years, he promised a fresh start. But here he was, broken-down and worn out. Even Rainie, the man always concocting a fanciful story, had no stories left to tell. The years had slipped away, and the far-away horizon now stood close, staring him down.

Rainie came by the house last Fall, asking for work. “Anything at all,” he said. He painted the garage, then fixed our back deck. I’ve handed him odd jobs whenever I could. We became friends and began to meet for coffee once or twice a week. Rainie has plenty reason for his heaviness. A shattered marriage, a distant daughter. A string of blunders. More ruined schemes than I can count. He’s broken promises; and he’s had promises broken. He’s not so different from anyone else – only most of us land just enough success to keep playing along. Rainie, on the other hand, was only dealt cards from one side of the deck.

One morning, Rainie stared into his coffee mug, looking for something he couldn’t find. He never looked up, but he found the words he wanted. “I’ve wasted my life, thrown it away. And now it’s done.”

Do you know that rare moment when you discover you believe something — fervently, absolutely — that you weren’t even aware of previous? You discover you believe something so powerfully you’d stake your life on it, so violently it will explode in your gut if you don’t let it loose?

“Rainie,” I said, waiting awkwardly until he looked up. “Nothing is wasted. Nothing. Not a damn thing.”