With Open Arms, at Last
Reader's Digest US|June 2021
Everyday miracles
By Tom Hallman

The scars that Pat Pribble carried through life were formed nearly 50 years ago, inflicted by fellow students in Woodland, Washington, who picked on him because he was different.

Pat’s parents had held him back in the fourth grade, so he ended up in the same class as his younger brother, Leo. Forever the oldest kid in the class, Pat tried to fit in. He played sports. He went on dates. But he was always just not good enough for this; just not smart enough for that. Pat Pribble was a target.

A trek through the high school years is filled with land mines. Bullies master the uncanny ability to find weakness, inflicting emotional pain with the precision of a surgeon with a scalpel in hand. Allies vanish, as being popular becomes more seductive than being loyal.

After graduating, Pat drifted and lost his way. He was homeless for a stretch, and he never married or had children. He never had a career, only a series of jobs. Now 65, he lives in a studio apartment in Southeast Portland, Oregon, with his dog, getting by on Social Security.

From a distance, with his long gray hair and beard, Pat appears tough, the kind of man you might cross the street to avoid. It is a facade. To talk with him reveals a gentle side. He speaks quietly, measuring his words, careful not to reveal what he is thinking and feeling, as those were the very things others once seized upon to mock him.

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