A Sack Full of Tokens


by John C. Westervelt


        I recorded the story that follows in 1998 while watching a musical on the stage in the gym of the old Asbury church on Sheridan.


        My friends Ken and Sheila picked me up early for the evening performance of “Sound of Music” at Asbury United Methodist church. We found seats up close on the side behind a young mother and her two sons who looked to be five or six-years old.

        Thirty minutes until show time is a long wait for young children, but the boys were as orderly as I would have expected. I learned that the mother taught kindergarten Sunday school at eleven o’clock. At one point the talkative child broke a family rule, and his mother said, “You owe me a token.” He immediately shaped up, but was certainly not crestfallen. His mother explained that he received a token for a good deed and returned one for a misstep.

        When I asked the boy about his tokens, he turned around and, sitting on his knees, said, “I have twenty tokens at home.” Then with a questioning expression he asked, “What comes before twenty?”


        With face beaming, he exclaimed, “I still have nineteen tokens.”

        When other children came in with strudels from the vendor in the hall, the boy’s mother asked if they would like one. While she was gone, I asked the spokesman for the two brothers, “What’s your name.”

        “My name is Clayton C-L-A-Y-T-O-N, and this is my brother C-U-R-T-I-S.”

        “What is your last name?”

        “My mother told me not to spell it for strangers.”

        While Clayton, who someday will have his own talk show, continued to chatter, Curtis reached over the back of the chair and laid his hand gently on mine. As I stroked the back of his hand, I thought, “This child with Down syndrome even has gentle skin.” He didn’t understand the message about strangers, for he was showing love to one. And this stranger loved him.

        The musical was a delight, but the young boys on a flat auditorium floor couldn’t see. Soon Clayton was on his mother’s lap. For a long time Curtis was just patient. After a while both boys were on their mother’s lap. I was thinking, “She must have tireless legs.”

        After the intermission the three of them sat on the floor to the side where all could see. Clayton sat alone engrossed in the singing of the von Trapp children. Curtis stayed close where he could feel his mother.

        A child’s play is filled with pretends. Let’s pretend that Jesus gives tokens. If this were the case, Jesus would be holding a sack full of tokens for Clayton’s and Curtis’ Mommy.


        As I read my story from so long ago, I had a yearning to know the whereabouts of the young mother and her two sons, who would now be in their early twenties. Through the years I have continued to hope that her diligence resulted in much happiness for her and her boys.


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