Small gestures can change a life
On the Bright Side
April 13, 2019
Wonderful little stories keep coming my way and I just keep wanting to share them with you. Here's one sent to me by a reader via email, a story with no author credited but with a very fine message:
Being a friend to someone (is the best gift)
One day when I was a freshman in high school I saw a kid from my class walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying every book he owned and I thought to myself, "Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd."
I myself had quite a weekend planned – parties and a football game with friends – so I shrugged my shoulders and went on.
But as I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward Kyle. They knocked the books out of his arms and tripped him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying; he looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes.
My heart went out to him, so I jogged over to him. As he crawled around looking for his glasses, I saw a tear in his eye. I handed him his glasses and said, "Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives."
He looked at me and said, "Hey thanks!" There was a big smile on his face.
It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude. I helped him pick up his books and asked him where he lived. As it turned out he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to private school before now.
We talked all the way home, and I carried some of his books. He turned out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked him if he wanted to play a little football with my friends, and he said yes. We hung out all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him. My friends did, too.
Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends. When we were seniors, we began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown, and I was going to Duke. I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor, and I was going for business on a football scholarship.
Kyle was valedictorian of our class. I teased him all the time about being a nerd, and about having to prepare a speech for graduation. Mostly I was just glad it wasn't me having to get up there and speak.
On graduation day, Kyle looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He had filled out and actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than I had and all the girls loved him; sometimes I was even jealous.
I could see that he was nervous about his speech, so I smacked him on the back and said, "Hey, big guy, you'll be great!" He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled. "Thanks," he said.
He started his speech with: "Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years – your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach ... but mostly your friends. I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I am going to tell you a story."
I listened with disbelief as he told the story of the first day we met. He said he had planned to kill himself over that weekend. He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his mom wouldn't have to do it later, how he was attacked by some bullies, which only added to his despair. He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile.
"Thankfully, I was saved," he said. "My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable."
I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment. I also saw his mom and dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile. Not until that moment did I realize its depth.
Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture you can literally change a person's life (including your own).
© 2019. Mel White, Tehachapi photographer and writer and co-owner of Tehachapi Treasure Trove, has been looking on the bright side for various publications since 1996. She welcomes your comments at [email protected]