“I can be anything I want to be, right?” Alex asked one night at dinner.
“Of course you can,” Dad said. He paused. “But you probably shouldn’t choose to be a veterinarian. Or a doctor. That might not go well.”
Alex frowned. He clutched his fork a little too tight. It broke in half and the metal pieces landed on his plate and cracked it. Alex burst into tears.
“It’s all right, honey,” Mom said. “There are still lots of things you can do.”
“Like what?” Alex asked. He sniffled and blew his nose on his thick canvas napkin. It tore down the center.
Mom handed him a new fork. “Well, um, you could be a newscaster,” she said. “Or a writer.”
“That’s right,” Dad said. “They have those programs now where you can dictate everything and you don’t have to type or hold a pencil.”
Alex frowned. “I just want to be like all the normal kids. You know, do the craft projects for the holidays. Play sports after school. Write down my own answers on assignments.”
Dad sighed. “Life isn’t fair sometimes, huh?”
Alex nodded. “Yeah.”
“You’re not the only kid at school who can’t do all the normal things though, right?” Mom asked.
“One kid has to keep his eyes closed all the time, because he has laser eyes. And this one girl can’t talk at all because her voice shatters glass,” Alex said.
Mom smoothed Alex’s hair. “You see? It’s not just you.”
“It’s still not fair.” Alex picked up his new fork and speared some lettuce. The tines curled under.
“Maybe you can find a way to use your talents to help other people,” Dad said.
“Like what?” Alex asked. He ate the lettuce and bent the fork’s tines back into place.
“Well, you could read to that boy with the laser eyes,” Dad said.
Alex frowned. “But I’m not supposed to touch the books. The pages keep ripping when I turn them.” He speared another bite of lettuce and the tines curled under again.
“But he can pick up the books, right?” Mom asked.
Alex nodded. “There’s nothing wrong with his hands.”
“Then maybe you can help each other,” Mom said. “I’ll bet there are a lot of stories you both want to hear.”
“You’ll find more work-arounds for your problems if you can work with other people,” Dad said.
“It would be nice to help people,” Alex said. “Do you really think I can?” He straightened the fork’s tines again.
“You’re the strongest person I know,” Dad said. “I’ll bet there are lots of ways you can help people. All you need to do is look around and notice.”
“But what if I see a problem, and I can’t help?” Alex asked.
“Then you could try to find someone who can help,” Dad said.
“Okay,” Alex said.
“So, what do you want to be when you grow up?” Mom asked.
“A space pirate,” Alex said. “Do you think I can?”
“Maybe,” Dad said. “If you find the right crew.”
“You might need to invent a good spaceship first,” Mom said.
“I could do that,” Alex said. “At least I think I can.”
“Well, then you know where to start,” Dad said. “Now who’s ready for lasagna?”
“Me!” Alex said. “Can I help?”
“Sure,” Dad said. “You can help me check to make sure it’s done. What do you think? Does it look good?”
“I think it looks great,” Alex said.
“Then it’s ready. Thanks for your help,” Dad said. Alex grinned.