The other day I read a story going the rounds on social media that I had read before, but forgotten about. It was well worth re-reading, but rather than copy and paste, I’m going to summarize it.
The young man who narrates the story is a popular boy who is interested in sports and has an active social life. He recalls that at the beginning of his freshman year of high school, he met a nerdy fellow named Kyle, who was carrying a load of textbooks home on a Friday night. Some bullies had just roughed Kyle up, knocking his glasses off and causing him to drop his load of books. The narrator doesn’t have a name in the retelling of the story that’s going around, but let’s call him Bill.
Bill helps Kyle find his glasses and pick up his books. Kyle explains that he is new to the public school, having attended a private school before. Bill introduces Kyle to his other friends that first weekend, and the two boys start a friendship that lasts throughout their high school years. As class valedictorian, Kyle is obliged to speak at their high school graduation ceremony. During his speech, he reveals that he had decided to kill himself the weekend that he met Bill, but that Bill’s gesture of kindness and offer of friendship had encouraged him, and kept him from committing a senseless act of suicide. The moral at the end of the story is powerful: “Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture, you can change a person’s life.”
There have been several times in my life when I was depressed or upset, and when the kindness of a stranger lifted me out of my misery for a few precious moments. No, I was never tempted to commit suicide, but that’s not the point. There was the little old man who helped me find my way around Shinjuku Station in Tokyo and helped me reconnect with the friend I was supposed to meet there. He disappeared before I had a chance to thank him, causing me to wonder later whether he was really an angel in disguise. There was a woman who came up to me as I sat in a restaurant when I lived in Oregon. She seemed to know that I was feeling especially sad and lonely that day, and she offered me a rose bud from a bunch of flowers she was carrying. There was a man who sat next to me on the ground floor of the IDS Tower in downtown Minneapolis when I was a student at the University of Minnesota. I had taken a bus from the University of Minnesota to downtown, and was killing time before getting on a commuter bus out to the suburb of Brooklyn Center one late afternoon. The old man seemed to understand that I was depressed, and told me some funny stories about life in Minneapolis when the city was very small.
Have you ever noticed someone who seemed especially sad or lonely? Someone who was being bullied? Someone who needed some help with a bulky package or a stroller on the stairs? Have you ever noticed a tourist who seemed lost, or a person who was frantically searching for one more coin in her purse to pay for the groceries? Have you ever noticed a woman carrying two large bags of groceries who trips on the uneven sidewalk and drops one bag, scattering all the groceries on the ground and tearing the paper bag? Have you ever noticed a person frantically searching for his car in the parking lot? If you have, what did you do? Did you shrug your shoulders and go on with your life, or did you stop to offer assistance?
If you have never stopped to help, consider doing so now. 🙂