Late For School
August 22, 2012 was the National Random Act of Kindness Day, a day set aside for us to seek someone whose day we can make a bit brighter.
For my sweet friend Patti Parker Sylva, every day is an excuse to do something nice for another. As part of the Milton Love Project.she continually seeks those who need extra TLC. She is a community activist who gets the job done. The Milton Love Project seeks folk in the community who need a little bit of love. Patti is prone to midnight “love missions” where she places beautiful hand-painted signs in the driveways as a way of saying you matter.
Each time I see a Love Project sign I know that someone inside the home needs an extra helping of love, packed down like brown sugar in a measuring cup. The sign means someone is hurting, which is why I say a silent prayer, both for the unknown person and for the hands who created the beautiful signs. You see, most anyone can write a check. Writing a check takes 30 seconds. Constructing, painting, and delivering a sign to a complete stranger’s house in the middle of the night is an emotional investment.
Some people do not understand. Some people do not want to.
For some, the whimsical hearts may be silly. They can’t understand the emotion behind it, the love pressed into the pulp with each stroke of the brush. The intense desire to help others that, I believe, God places in all of us at birth, a desire some embrace and others ignore. Those who overlook others don’t understand that kindness breeds kindness, and the more love you give away, the more you have for yourself.
This morning I was the recipient of an act of kindness when my friend Donna delivered several cases of quart jars to my farmer friend’s house. She saw my Facebook plea, took one look at the empty glass jars in the pantry, and popped the trunk.
Acts of Kindness require someone to get up and physically do something, whether construct a sign or deliver a box of jars.
Donna doesn’t live near Billy. Even if she did, she still had to lug the boxes into her car, drive them to Billy’s and unload them. She didn’t have to be so generous, but I am glad she was because her act of kindness lead me to mine. Sometimes a little magic happens in this old world and that is why I must share what happened to me this morning. As I left Billy’s on my way out of town I thought, I need to take those jars back home so they won’t be clanging all the way down the interstate.
He was wearing new black shorts and a bright red shirt. There were no earphones wedged in ears, his fingers weren’t texting while he walked. He was late…fifteen minutes late according to my clock and at least five miles from the high school. Slamming on the brakes, I stepped out of the car and said, “you heading to school?”
“Let me give you a ride.”
I am certain his mama had warned him not to accept rides from strangers. Told him about crazy white women who might do heaven knows what to a young black boy, which was why I said, “git in the car!” with the same intensity I suspected his mama says, “boy, you better not miss the bus.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He said.
“Miss the bus?” I asked, stating the obvious.
“Yes ma’am” he said. “I’ve been walking for over an hour.”
Let’s pause for a moment and ponder his statement. This young man had been walking for an hour. It was 8:45 in the morning, during the peak of Atlanta rush hour traffic. Tens of thousands of commuters had passed this young man who was obviously walking to school. Yesterday was Random Act of Kindness day for Pete’s sake. C’mon people of Atlanta. Do you mean to tell me that all of those people were too busy…that no one noticed? Why in the world didn’t someone pick him up an hour ago? And please, don’t say because you can’t trust people. That copout makes me want to scream.
This young man could have pulled the covers over his head and gone back to sleep, but he didn’t. He started walking. He chose the right path, the one that leads him toward a brighter future. He showed more character than the thousands of commuters who passed him on the way to school. His mother should be very proud, I know I am.
“You know, your mama’s gonna kill you for being late,” I joked.
We laughed together while I thought, I hope he doesn’t tell her a complete stranger drove him to school.
I imagined the welcome he would receive at school. Would the attendance officer greet him with a smile, or write the unexcused tardy with a huff and the roll of an eye? Would the teacher be understanding, or think this young man was rude for interrupting class? Did the young man have time to eat breakfast…pack a lunch? We do not know these things when we zip past someone. We do not know their story because we choose not to get involved.
He said, “Thank you,” eight times. Said it so many times the words embarrassed me. Why in the world should he thank me? I was just delivering jars to my house.
“Listen,” I said as he opened the door. “Everyone misses the bus every now and then. Your day didn’t start off well, but try to push past that and make the rest of the day a good one.”
I didn’t get his name because it does not matter. There but for the grace of God go I. Car trouble could leave me stranded… walking home in high-heels, beneath the sun, without a drop of water. Would you have stopped to pick me up? Would you, really?
I know this; when Donna loaded the boxes of jars into her trunk she had no idea the ripple her act of kindness would bring. For her generosity and for her friendship I am grateful.
Renea Winchester is an award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. She is currently writing her third book. Learn more about her at www.reneawinchester.com