I was either in the third, or fourth grade. It was winter, and kids were lined-up outside of my elementary school as they waited to get onto the buses. Noise and chaos filled the air as bundled-up classmates romped around …and out of the cacophony a smiling dark-haired girl appeared, and handed a brown paper bag to me. She simply said, “This is for you, I hope it makes you feel better.” I barely had a chance to register things, let alone say anything back. She instantly darted off, leaving me with the brown bag in my hands. I recognized her. I often saw her on the play ground, in the cafeteria etc… but I believe she was a year ahead of me in age/ grade.
The line started to move, so I climbed-up into the bus as I unrolled the top of the crumpled bag with shocked curiosity. I slid into a green vinyl seat, and looked into the bag. The first thing that I pulled out was a little teddy bear wearing an orange shirt— something that appeared to have likely been from the little girl’s own toy collection. One by one I pulled out sheets of stickers, decorated pencils, and various other “little girl” things that she must have put together from her own belongings. Of special note, was a pink button pin that said,”You are Special.” I remember feeling so baffled and overwhelmed. I did not understand why she had given those things to me, and I could not find a letter, or anything to explain it. I did not even know her name, and she likely did not know mine.
That little brown bag filled with another girl’s treasures had an immense impact on me. I remember feeling so touched, and confused at the same time. And yes, it made me feel better….as if someone cared, saw me, and wanted to make me smile etc…. though I did not understand why she had done it. For days I picked-over the items one by one, afraid to use/ ruin them….because they were very special to me, and I was amazed at the kindness.
I tried to thank her during a recess that was held in the school gym (likely due to rain/ winter conditions). She smiled big at me, but then turned and ran towards some of her friends without saying anything back. I had hoped to ask her why, learn her name etc…but that never happened. We would pass smiles, and sometimes little waves at each other across the playground, and when we passed each other in the halls and cafeteria…but that was the most that we ever interacted. She remained a mystery to me.
Over thirty years have passed. It demonstrates how random little acts of kindness can remain held in the heart long after they occurred. She may not even remember me, or whatever it was that inspired her to collect items from her own possessions…. but I will always remember her. She placed that crumpled brown bag into the hands of a child who was silently struggling, and who felt alone (I was in an abusive situation). I do not know if she somehow saw that, or if maybe she had been doing a church exercise of kindness ( or something similar). Regardless, it made an impression on me. It made me feel better.
I decided to share this today, because I do not have a way to tell her how much her kindness is still appreciated. The best I can do is to share the little story/ memory, and hope that it serves as a reminder to all of us (including myself), of the power (yes, power), that we all have to affect others in a positive way. We have no way of knowing how much even a smile and a positive word could mean to someone, or if a small thoughtful act might arrive at a time that they most need a glimmer of light. If you feel a prompting to say, or do something for someone…. no matter how small…..try to act on it. It could be a special “nudge” meant to help someone who is concealing their struggles.
To the little dark-haired girl…..Thank you.