Lessons to be learned from a boy named Alex

Published 7:02 pm Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Alex Hitchcock was seven and moving to New Jersey for the second time in his young life.  I was hired by his parents as their interior designer when Alex was nine months old, and they resided in Atlanta. This would be the fourth house I was involved with and the second one in New Jersey.

Basking Ridge, New Jersey is a quaint, peaceful town 40 miles from Manhattan, soaked in green, covered with deer and yummy food from local delis and pizza parlors. Shannon, Alex’s mom, is an author and former North Carolinian who loves sweet tea and lard biscuits, which makes her an extraordinarily lovely person in my book.

The house they bought was an older home, which needed a lot of tender loving care. (In design-speak, that means renovation.) Since Alex’s parents were having to live in a hotel for most of the summer during the remodeling, it was decided that Alex should stay with his grandparents in North Carolina.

That was fine by Alex.  He would be on a farm, have grandma’s fried chicken and most anything else he wanted. Why would he not be excited over that decision?

While on the farm his grandfather, “Pa Max,” gave Alex money for helping with the daily chores.

Alex saved each dollar until he had a stack of bills he could hardly carry.   

I spent much of the summer planning the renovation and traveling to New Jersey to help Shannon. We changed Alex’s little bedroom into a larger room by taking down a wall to an adjoining room. There was now enough space to add a study, play area, and bookshelves.  We chose a western theme for the décor with blue walls, using denim, accents of red, burlap, and a bandana print fabric.   

Once he arrived from the farm to begin school in Basking Ridge, the house was livable, but not quite finished. The kitchen was not yet operational causing the family to order in or dine out every night.

Shannon heard Alex on the phone one evening whispering to his grandfather in North Carolina. “Pa Max can you come and get me?” he asked.

“Why?” His grandfather asked, terribly concerned.

“Because these people don’t feed me right!” Alex shouted.

Before Alex called children’s services declaring neglect, I arrived to finish the décor, the kitchen was in working order, and Alex was happy with his new school because they served a good pizza for lunch.

I started putting books on his shelves and curtains on his windows. His toys were neatly organized, and his room was becoming as unique as he was.   

I finally finished the house, and I was ready to fly home early one morning. When I walked down the hall towing my luggage, I heard footsteps behind me.

“Miss Lynn, wait!” Alex shouted.

I turned to see Alex with his little pajamas resting on top of his bare feet and his bowl cut bangs were disheveled from a night of sleeping in his cowboy room.

“Here Miss Lynn, I want to give you this.” He quietly said as he held up so many dollar bills that it took both of his hands to hold them. I quickly realized it was all the money his Pa Max had given him throughout the summer.

I leaned down to meet him eye to eye. “Alex, why would you want to give me all the dollars your earned and saved?”

He sweetly replied, “You worked hard and made my room so pretty.  You need to be paid for all of the stuff you did!”

I placed the money back in his hands and explained to him that his parents were paying me, and he didn’t need to use his money. 

After I convinced him to keep his $200, I hugged him tightly and said goodbye. I watched him as he shuffled back to his room to hide his money safely.

Alex is now 25, a graduate of American University and working in Alexandria, Virginia. I think of him often and pray the years didn’t take away the giving nature of this special little boy as it does so many of us.

Oh, the heart of a child and their humble, giving spirit. Oh, the gift of the child who believes without complication or hesitancy. Oh, the innocence found in a child who is content with piece of fried chicken and a dollar.

The Bible teaches that we must become like a child to enter the kingdom of Heaven. We must put the hoarding of pride, the discontent, the cynicism, and any mean spirit within us, away. As adults, we must dig deep to find our inner child and become more like Alex who was willing to give all he had because he believed it was only right to do so.