He stood at the corner. The sign he held in his hands spoke volumes. Times were tough and money hard to come by. He hadn’t bathed in a week. Lord only knows where he had slept the evening before, if he had slept at all. Didn’t he have a home he could go to? What brought him to this corner? Where did he get the marker and the cardboard for his sign?

His tired shoulders slumped as the cars passed him by. The hunger pains racked his body, but not as bad as the despair did. Times had not always been like these. There had  been another day, years before. Before the women. Before the booze. Before the needles. Before despair.

He lifted his face. The streetlight changed to red once again. Slowly he panned the cars for generosity. A window rolled down and he walked to the  person seated in the car. Two dollars. That was better than most people did. He muttered a thank you as the car drove away.

The streets were wet from the rain of the day. His clothes were sticking to his body, but at least it was cooler than the normal heat of an August day. How had he sunk this far?

He had been comfortable once. He had lived in luxury. His father had a strict set of rules that he chose not to abide by though, and in anger, one day, he demanded his share of the inheritance and left. Never to look back. Never to be constricted by those rules again.

The thoughts of years passed flashed through his mind often as he watched the cars go by. Arrogant people passed by every minute. But he knew well that very few had been as arrogant as he. Thousands of dollars he had, all of it he squandered. In a short amount of time he had nothing.

Too ashamed to go home, he stayed where he was and tried to work to make his way. Habits die hard. Expensive habits die painfully. His life was now broken and, he thought, wasted.

There had to be a better life than this. The life of one of the workers in his father’s employ was so much better than what he was now doing. Even if he couldn’t return as a son, he would ask his father for a job. It had to be better than his life now.

So, he picked up his backpack containing everything he owned in the world. It was many miles back to his father’s house, but the journey was underway. It would take several days to make it back, but it had to be better. It just had to.

His legs were tired. His feet sore. He climbed the hill in front of him. His father’s house was down on the other side. It wasn’t much further. As he reached the top of the hill he paused for a moment to catch his breath. He looked down on the valley where he grew up. It was familiar, but he knew it would never be as it was. Never again would he take it all for granted, even though none of it was his.

He started walking down the hill. To his amazement, he saw a man running toward him. The man was older and well dressed. Why was he running? Who was this? It was…his father. His father was running to him. Immediately he felt fear, but that was soon gone as he realized his father was smiling…and crying.

With a swift embrace, the father took the son in his arms and pulled him close. The son’s clothes did not stop him. The smell of the man did not stop the father. The father’s son was home and he rejoiced and cried as he held him.

“Father, please forgive me for my stupidity. I have come back to ask you for a job. I don’t deserve to be your son, but I will gladly spend my life working for you to repay the cost I have been to you.”

“Son, I have waited for you. Every day since you have been gone I have searched this road for you. I believed in my heart you would return. Now you have. You are my son and you will always be my son. I love you. Nothing has ever changed that. You may work with me as we live our lives as family. Come, we must celebrate for you have come home.”

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