Our front page Christmas story this week was a very hard one for me to write. Features are my favorite thing to do, but I as long as I’ve been doing them, I never feel quite up to the task, particularly when the story is one that conjures up so many emotions like this one did.

I’ll be frank with you, after Jackson and his parents left the newspaper office that cold Monday evening, I cried.

I cried first of all because he – they – made me happy. They really did. It is impossible to be in a room with them and not feel the intensity of all they’ve been through and how’s its drawn them together into the tightly woven fabric of what a family at its very best should be.

I also cried because I knew I had just been given a gift, a big one, one that I had not expected and certainly didn’t feel that I deserved.

Zach had met Adam, Jackson’s father at court the previous week and he had given me their contact information. It sounded like a good story to both of us and he asked me to contact them and they came to the office to tell me their story.

As we sat there through that two-hour interview, a conversation really, talking, laughing, crying, I felt just a little bit of all that they have experienced on this long and often grueling journey with their son – anger, questioning, frustration, acceptance, love and finally, a transformation into something finely burnished in the fire – a thing of rare and undeniable beauty and fulfillment ensconced in the body of that tiny, precious, and oh so wise little boy.

Jackson knows a lot.

He is smart, precocious - he is what my mama would have called an “old soul” but he is also something more.

Spend a little time with him and you feel that he knows some secrets that could change the world for the better – simple and profound things that, as his dad Adam said, the world and all its trappings has taken away from most of us as we’ve aged, or maybe it’s something we never had, at least in that abundance, in the first place. But something tells me Jackson won’t lose what he has – it’s a gift he’s been given and one he’s happy to share with those that have grown that hard protective shell to shield them from the pain, but also the magic, of what it really means to live.

It’s the reason he is here.

I’ve been down a lot lately, for a lot of reasons, and meeting that little boy, that growing little family, made more of a difference to me than I can tell you.

When we finally finished talking, and Jackson had imparted me with some of his wisdom and a good dose of his infectious joy, I held him in my arms and was so grateful, so thankful for allowing our paths to cross.

I told his parents I was intimidated; I know a good, no a great, story when I hear one, but the sheer magnificence of it frightened me as it always does.

I couldn’t believe I was up to the task of telling it as it should be told. I’m still not sure that I have done it justice.

But as I confided in them my feelings and my concerns, Adam gave me a hug and told me that if God could shepherd them on the journey they’re on, he could, and would, give me what I needed for the task, if only I would ask.

It struck me then, as it has before, and it’s a lesson I evidently must keep learning, that he always does give me what I need, and that his timing is always perfect.

And so He got me through writing the story, and I hope you will enjoy the journey of reading about this family, if you haven’t already (it is quite long).

And one more thing, I know this time is a hard time of year for many of us, myself included, but please remember this one thing — and it’s an echo from a promise made with the birth of another child over 2,000 years ago – everything is going to be OK.

Merry Christmas.

Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for The Madison County Journal.

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