The first time I met a resident of Wheeler, Texas, I made a snide comment: “Where’d your town get its name? It is full of wheeler-dealers?”
Sometimes God pays me back for smart-aleck remarks.
A couple Sundays ago, I substituted for the priest at Wheeler. During the opening prayer, a family entered church and filed into the last bench: a mother, a father and four or five children.
The family seemed attentive and happy throughout the Mass. Each of them was well-dressed and the expressions on their faces were pleasant and peaceful. Despite this good impression, I wasn’t prepared for the even greater impression I would receive at the end of the Mass.
At the start of the recessional hymn, the father stepped into the aisle with a young son in hand and left church. When I arrived at the door, the dad was standing off to the side, his hands on the boy’s shoulders and a big smile on his face. The boy also wore a big smile. He twisted out of his father’s grip, then skipped across the room swinging his arms and speaking happy words that I didn’t understand.
Until that moment, I did not realize that the boy had special needs.
I glanced at his dad who continued to smile as he watched his boy spin and twirl about the room.
“What’s your name?” I asked the father.
His eyes shown with a radiant joy.
“You got a handsome son,” I said.
“Estoy muy orgulloso de mi hijo.” He’s my pride and joy.
I gave him a nod and turned to greet the folks now filing out of the church. When I turned back, Pablo and his family had slipped away.
I did not have the chance to bid them good-bye, but I won’t forget them. And the next I hear the name Wheeler, Texas, I won’t be thinking, Wheeler-Dealer, I’ll be thinking, Wheeler-Dad.
Wheeler, Texas. A town with one heck of a dad.