When In Doubt, Be Kind

, , , , , , | | Hopeless | August 18, 2019

I work at a public elementary school in an area characterized by opioid addiction and homelessness. I am working closely with one particular student who I know is experiencing homelessness. He lives alone with his mother, who is neglectful and borderline abusive. Whenever he says something about it I send in a report, but there’s nothing I can do beyond that. The school social worker visits their home regularly and is working with his mother on being more present, but I don’t know if that helped at all.

Additionally, though he doesn’t have an official diagnosis, he shows many characteristics of autism and is frequently bullied by his classmates. We have been working together all school year on social-emotional health, finding ways to control his temper and articulate his emotional needs. He has been making incredible progress all year.

For one of our sessions, I decide to play a text-based computer game with him that simulates living in poverty. You have to balance work, rent, health emergencies, and other situations on a very limited budget. In the game, you have a child, and various scenarios regarding your child appear throughout the game; for example, your child is in a play, and you have to choose between going to the play and accepting an extra shift at work for some bonus money.

My student chooses the options that would best benefit the child, every. Single. Time. Even if it costs more money than he can realistically afford, he is so invested that he wants his imaginary child to have the best life possible. When we finish the game, he turns to me and says, “I’m a good dad.”

I still get choked up thinking about this child who had every reason to be angry at the world, but still chose kindness every. Single. Time.

And Now She’s Immortalized Here At “Not Always Hopeless”

, , , , , | | Hopeless | June 28, 2019

I work in a call center with several other women, all of them at least 40 years older than me. They’re all incredibly sweet and we get along great. One of them has a lot of health problems and eventually has to carry an oxygen tank around, but it does nothing to dampen her hilarious and eccentric spirit.

One slow afternoon, this particular coworker hands me a Post-It with her signature scrawled on it and tells me that I’ll want to keep her autograph for when she’s famous one day. I laugh and tuck the note away, forgetting it soon after.

Eventually, I leave the company to move back to my hometown for a new job opportunity. A few months after moving, I come back to town for a visit and stop by my old call center. I’m talking to my former supervisor when I ask how the elderly coworker is doing.

She suddenly gets quite somber and tells me that the coworker passed of cancer a month or so ago. I’m devastated. While I wasn’t terribly close with her on a personal level, I’d worked with her for over a year and a half and truly enjoyed her company.

After my trip, I’m looking through some of my old things and I find the sticky note with my former coworker’s “autograph.” I have a small corkboard hanging on my wall, so I pin the signature up there alongside mementos from my old city. It makes me happy to know that she is no longer suffering and that I’ll always have a little something to remind me of her.

The Cat Is Gone In A Creampuff

, , , , , , , | Hopeless | January 13, 2019

(I am a volunteer at a no-kill pet shelter. A few weeks ago, a couple came in with the angriest cat we had ever seen. Along with a severe case of mange, he was also missing his right eye. The couple explained that their neighbors had moved and left the cat locked inside a junker car parked behind their house. Even with every volunteer working to rehabilitate him, “One-Eyed Willy” proves to be a difficult case; he bites and scratches, yowls constantly, and does not get along with other male cats. We resign to having him as a permanent resident. One week, I arrive to find that One-Eyed Willy is missing from the cat room. A fellow volunteer explains that he’s been adopted over the weekend. The general consensus is that he has been taken in as a charity case and will be returned when the new owner finds him too difficult to handle. Terrified that whoever this person is will ruin a month of hard work, I can do nothing but wait until they return for his neutering appointment in two weeks. I am working the front desk when a young woman approaches me. She does not have a kennel, but has a cat tucked into her jacket.)

Woman: “Hi! I’m here to drop off Creampuff for his appointment?”

(As any adopted cats are referred to by their new names, it takes me a second to realize that she’s holding One-Eyed Willy! He is purring up a storm, curled up in her arms like a baby. While we go over the paperwork, I notice that he is wearing a hand-knit vest to cover his mange spots. With my heart already melting, I get talking to her.)

Me: “So, has he been behaving himself?”

Woman: “Oh, he’s the best cat in the world! I have a teensy bit of trouble sometimes when I need to go to the store, though.”

(She unzips her jacket and sets One-Eyed Willy on the counter. Immediately, he begins to whine like a baby. She picks him up and he stops.)

Woman: *while giggling and smothering him in kisses* “It’s a good thing I work from home, or I’d be evicted!”

(It isn’t easy working at a shelter, but times like this make it all worth it!)

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These Christmas Miracles Are Predictably Beautiful

, , , , , , | Hopeless | January 11, 2019

(When I am seven and a half months pregnant, my husband passes away suddenly of an undiagnosed heart condition. I have no other family, just some close friends. Things have been tough emotionally and financially. Christmas Eve, I’m buying just essentials — nappies, formula, bread, etc. — but nothing you would class as festive. While waiting in a very long line at the checkout, my six-month-old daughter starts to fuss. A guy in his 50s is behind me and starts making funny faces, causing my daughter to stop crying and laugh, instead. As we get near to the belt, he turns to the lady behind him and says he forgot something and asks if he can run to grab it. She agrees to hold his spot in line. He comes back with a gift card and a box of chocolates in addition to the groceries already in his basket. Once I’m ready to pay, he steps forward.)

Gentleman: “Wait. Please add my things and put $100 on the gift card. I’ll pay for it.”

Me: “Thank you, sir, but that’s okay.”

Gentleman: “Please, I’d like to. Call it an early Christmas present.”

(The cashier rings up his things, as well. The total comes close to $250, with my stuff close to $100. I’m now in tears.)

Me: “Thank you so much. I’ve had a really hard year and this means everything to me. I don’t know how to thank you.”

(He takes out the box of chocolates and gift card and hands them to me, as well.)

Gentleman: “The world could do with more kindness. Not enough people care about others. Take these and enjoy your Christmas with your gorgeous daughter. Things will get better. Merry Christmas, and I hope 2019 is a better year for you.”

(Before I could say anything else, he walked away. Not only was I in tears, but so were the cashier and the lady behind me in line. I was really speechless as I’d heard about things like this but had never witnessed it, let alone had it happen to me. To the gentleman who did this, I really hope you’re reading this. Thank you for your generosity. You made an extremely difficult time of year and a really crappy year so much better. I hope, in times to come, I will be in a position to pay it forward.)

Man’s Best Friend, From Beginning To End

, , , , , , , | Right | April 1, 2013

(A family has just had their old golden retriever euthanized, due to a mix of a bad heart and bone cancer. The whole family is pretty despondent, but the youngest, a little boy, is taking it the worst. While the family is waiting for the paperwork to get finished, one of our regulars — a young Air Force lieutenant — walks in. He quickly notices the group, and approaches the desk.)

Lieutenant: “Did they just have to put someone down?”

(I nod. The lieutenant sits down right next to the boy, who is near tears.)

Lieutenant: “You okay, little guy?”

(The boy nods.)

Lieutenant: “Did you lose someone you care about?”

Boy: “Uh huh…”

Lieutenant: “Do you miss him?”

Boy: “Uh huh…”

Lieutenant: “Did you make every day of his life worth living?”

Boy: “Huh?”

Lieutenant: “I lost my little brother to cancer a few years back, and it tore me up. Had I done everything I could? What if I had done this or that differently? I just didn’t know, and it ate me up inside. Then they read us his will. It said, ‘I thank you, all of you, for making what borrowed time on Earth I had worth it, down to the second. That is all I could have asked for; know that should this cancer take me before I pen this will again, I loved each of you like no other family can, and going out with a smile worth smiling is the best way to go.'”

(The whole family is listening at this point, and the boy is completely enraptured. The lieutenant, lost in his recounting for a moment, looks back at the child.)

Lieutenant: “So, if you did your best — your VERY BEST — to make every day of his life worth living, I’m sure from wherever he is now, he’s looking back on your time together and smiling.”

(The boy runs out of his chair, up to the lieutenant, and gives him a hug. He lets loose all the tears he was fighting back. The father tries to remove the child from his iron-gripped hug, but the lieutenant stops him.)

Lieutenant: *to the father* “It really is no trouble at all…”

(As for the boy, he eventually he cried himself to sleep in the lieutenant’s lap.)

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