Wednesday Wish (167); Giving From the Heart
Updated: Nov 23, 2021
She was young but her spirit had already walked many, many miles. Her voice was rough, her eyes were tired, her body dragged. I saw her in the hallway after she brought her little girl to school and before she headed back to the projects where she and her three children lived. It was November in Raleigh, North Carolina, 1997.
“G’morning, Tina,” I said to her with a gentle smile.
She looked up at me with a softness I hadn’t seen from her before, as if she needed kindness so badly that without it, she didn’t know if she'd make it through her day.
I reached out to touch her arm, “I don’t have anyone in my office right now. If you have time, I’d love to talk to you.”
She nodded and swallowed hard, trying her best to hold back tears.
I moved my hand to hers and held it tightly as we walked back to my office. “It’s gonna be all right,” I whispered. “It’s all gonna be all right.”
She told me her story that day, a story of hope and disappointment, abuse and tragedy, love and loss.
“I apply for jobs when the kids are in school but preschool is only a few hours and I need a job to pay for childcare, but I need childcare to have a job. I am so tired, Miss Brynne, so tired. And it feels like no one cares a thing. I go to the store and no one looks me in the eye, no one pays me any mind. It’s like I’m invisible, something no one wants to see. I might not’a gone to college, but I ain’t bad. I love my children just like the other lady does, I just didn’t never get any help. I been doing it all on my own since I was fourteen.”
We talked for a long while that day and lit a few candles in that heart of hers to lighten up the darkest places. Tina cried and she cried and she cried. And I listened and held her, hard, the best way I knew how.
A few weeks later it was nearing Thanksgiving. I knew Tina and her family wouldn’t have much but I didn’t say anything, not until the last day of school before the holiday break.
“Tina?” I said to her, after she watched her little girl run into the classroom to play with friends. “I have something for you,” and I motioned for her to come with me.
As we walked to my car, I told Tina a story about an old woman who had a lot of money. I told her how the old woman was angry and hurt because no one needed her, not even her money. But after a while, that old woman realized that for people to care about her she needed to start caring for others, first. Maybe if she gave, maybe if she smiled, maybe if she looked someone straight in the eye with kindness from her heart, maybe then, what she needed herself, would be returned.
Tina listened and smiled to herself, thinking as we walked.
“So this old woman,” I said, “she knew I worked in the projects and decided that she’d try caring right away. So she gave me some money and told me what to buy.” I opened the trunk of my car.
Tina looked in at a turkey and all the fixings for a Thanksgiving feast. She covered her mouth and her eyes filled with tears. “For me?” she said. “Really? For me and my babies? Well, I never—”
My own eyes started welling up, too. “She asked me to give all this to someone who was in danger of thinking no one cared. And for me to tell you she did. She didn’t want any thanks, she just wanted you to keep believing that the world is a good and kind place. For it is, Tina. It is.”
We hugged that day in the cold, dirty parking lot of Raleigh’s toughest neighborhood. Around us there was anger and ugly and fear, but the two of us, together we were our own little island. And that was all that mattered. That, and that Tina never felt indebted to me for buying her Thanksgiving dinner that year.
* * *
2020 has been a tough year for many of us.
My Wish is that we aren't just thankful for what we have,
but that we also remember to give from our hearts.
We need each other now more than ever.
Happy Thanksgiving, dear Readers.
From my heart to yours.