Some moments from my childhood are distinct snapshots of a scene and how it made me feel. One of my favorite memories is from when I was about five years-old. I was with my grandmother in her house on New Pear St. A boy in the neighborhood had been in an accident and was in the hospital. I followed my grandmother upstairs to one of their spare bedrooms. I watched as she pulled a giant box down from the closet. Inside were toys! A collection of cars, dolls, games, all sealed in their packages. To a five year-old that was the equivalent of heaven! I remember being stunned. I thought I knew where all the toys were in the house. Then there was… THE BOX.
My grandmother chose which ones she wanted and then placed the box back on the upper shelf. She explained that those toys were for times like this–when someone was in the hospital and needed cheering up.
A few years later, my paternal grandparents came to stay with me and my little brother while my parents were away. I was in first or second grade. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my grandfather. He held a blue book in his hand titled Chisanbop. Both of us tried to learn this new finger math. It was one of the first times I felt close to my paternal grandfather. He had always been a man of tremendous energy, always biking or playing golf, but up until that point we hadn’t said much to each other. After our math lesson we went to the grocery store. I asked for an ice-cream sandwich. He told me to grab several packages so I could bring them to school the next day to share with my classmates. I was stunned. Really? He was going to buy ice-cream for my entire class? I couldn’t wait to go to school the next day.
Our family moved to an apartment complex in Hartford, Connecticut. I believe I was in third grade. I used to spend hours riding my bike all around the complex. One day I was near the entrance to our apartments and I heard a loud crash. Lying on the ground was an overturned motorcycle, a man, and next to it, a truck. The driver of the truck came running for me and asked if I would race home and dial 911. When I reached the operator I realized I didn’t know the exact address of our apartment building. We had just moved in. I did, however, remember the name of the street just outside the entrance where the accident took place. Darling Street. The operator sent an ambulance.
I remember my parents and neighbors making a big deal about me calling 911. I couldn’t understand why. In my nine year-old mind I had done what anybody would have done. I helped.
My grandparents hadn’t set out to teach me a specific lesson with having toys ready for children in need or buying ice-cream for, not just their child, but others. They were living out the kindness in their heart. I was watching and learning. They are gone now yet their lessons live on in my heart.
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Aesop