If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
“You know, I still didn’t completely trust – much as I’d like to say I did. Not at first. I left CeCe on the line – explaining that I would be in the auditorium, but that Daniel would make sure she did what she was supposed to do, then I immediately checked up on this Daniel guy. I spoke with one of the APs – the one whose wife headed up our Special Olympics track team – the one I thought would have the most sympathy and understanding of CeCe’s situation and needs. I asked him if this Daniel guy would actually help CeCe out, if he would actually take this added responsibility on. The AP assured me – he said the boy was one of the good guys – and he said he’d keep an eye out for her as well…”
“So I sat back and watched the kids come into the auditorium. I couldn’t help but smile when I saw CeCe and that Daniel walking in – she had his attention, she looked like she was talking a mile a minute and he looked like he was listening….he had that attentive pose – slightly bent to get an ear closer to CeCe – there’s no other way to say it – he had a bemused look on his face. You know, the kind of look that says ‘I really have no clue what you’re saying but I’m going to go along with it anyway…’. It was wonderful, watching them. Tall and short. Black and white…” She trailed off, eyes blinking again behind her glasses.
I watched her; she was staring off again – that see-all-see-nothing stare. A slight movement directed my attention. Her hands were trembling – tracing over the picture in the album. She caught the edge of the page and turned it, slowly, smoothing over the new sheet of old photos tenderly.
“I miss her, my girl.” The whisper floated, journeying across the space and time that separated us. The old woman and me.
I leaned in closer to see what her fingers were remembering. The girl’s eyes were riveting. Her blonde hair was lifted up and away from the somber robe – making the whole picture playful. Teasing. Her eyes, though. Her eyes were staring right at the camera. It looked like they were staring right at me. They were tilted slightly at the corners, flat lids. Young. Young and innocent and joyful and wise. Could they really be all those things? To a camera? To a stranger across the years? I noticed the details – the cap was a little too big – coming down over her brow just a little too far, creating a shadow across her forehead because it didn’t quite fit. She was looking away – at another camera, another photographer in the next couple of pictures. In one, she had her arm around another student. In this one, it was her smile that captivated me. So honest. Pure. Sweet.
“.,,Last year….” The old woman had turned toward me again. She, too, was smiling. “Yes,” she agreed. “My CeCe had that same effect on everyone. She spilled over with joy. She was all about relationship.” Her finger rested on the photo of the two friends. “I miss her.”
“So, do you want to hear the rest of the story? About that boy? And my girl? It was something special.” The woman’s lifted her eyes – sparkling – from the album in her lap. I nodded.
“Well, there’s really not much more to it all, really. Not anymore with my memory, anyway…” She laughed – a short burst of a humph-y laugh, and continued. “That boy – Daniel – he caught up to us from the class picture,” her finger pointed to the photos. “He said he’d been watching for her – from the top row.” She looked up at me again. “Can you just imagine? Him in his graduation robe, looking all sharp and eyerything with his tie and honors medal around his neck, in the middle of his own graduation, looking for my girl? Right then and there I prayed a little prayer of thanks. He was truly a gift.”
“CeCe and I walked with him into the Expo Center where this thing was going to take place. It was big and there were a lot of people, crowding into the doors and looking like they knew where they were going. We were shepherded outside and back in to an area just for staff and graduates. Did I tell you that CeCe’s principal had issued me an ID so I could be with her before the big line-up? So I was there in the middle of all these students. CeCe had to pick up her name card from a table and get ready to line up. After I zipped her robe back on, Daniel told me he could watch her, and would stay with her from there. I trusted him – CeCe was so excited. She told me to go – she would be fine. So I left.”
“The next time I saw my girl, she was being helped down the stadium steps – by Daniel – in her graduation line – in time with Pomp and Circumstance. Of course, I got all emotional. Still do when I think about it…Somehow that boy knew those steps were going to be difficult for my daughter to manage. She was in seventh heaven holding his arm. You could see the relationship all the way down the steps, then all the way down the aisle….right up until the moment the row behind them blocked the view – of the tall boy and the short girl – taking care of each other – I could just picture that bemused expression on his face because her face was tilted toward his and her mouth was moving – a mile a minute.”
“It’s like snapshots in my head – these memories of the ceremony,” my Aunt had closed her eyes and was leaning back against the cushions of her chair. She turned those closed eyes toward me and continued.
“She was in the third row, on the side closest to where we were sitting. We saw the row stand and watched as they lined up along the opposite wall – moving toward the stage and their handshake. CeCe had been practicing that handshake for weeks – reach for the diploma with the left, shake with the right, look the person in the eye. She actually had a surprisingly firm grip.”
The woman moved her hands away from the album. They had been covering a few more of the old pictures. Blurry again. But knowing the story, now, I could see the tall and short – in line against a the far side of an arena. It was obvious they were talking – his head tilted down, hers tilted up. In one, it looked like he was guiding her – arm behind her back.
“You see it, now, don’t you?” The woman’s voice was muted in the stillness of the room. She turned her head toward me – eyes still closed. “My camera may not have gotten the detail – but it captured the important stuff – you see, don’t you? The relationship. The trust. The caring.” She opened her eyes and pointed to the final picture on the page.
“Look. Closely. I almost missed it myself….yes, that’s CeCe shaking the hand of her high school principal. You can see the school board members lined up – she had to walk down the line. Three hands. Then there’s the photographer. You can see his camera and his concentration. Catching the moment. But look behind him. On the floor – where the students are lining up for their second picture. He’s the one turned around to watch. He’s still keeping his eye on my girl – still watching out for her. Now, that…” the old woman turned to me, concise and crisp, big smile forming, finger pressed into the book, “That’s special.”
She was blinking behind her glasses – blinking away tears. “I just can’t tell that story without crying – even now, after all these years.” It was almost like she’d forgotten I was even in the room – a comment to herself. “I’m always so humbled by his kindness.” She stopped the blinking. Tears tracked along the fine wrinkles. She gave me one of her special teacher looks – the sternish one – the look that said listen to what I’m about to say… “I made him introduce me to his mother – at the end – I wanted to make sure she knew what a good boy she’d raised. It was the least I could do…for all he’d done for my girl….”
“You know, he never did stop taking care of her – He helped her move her tassel, throw her cap in the air – and retrieved it for her, walked her back up the stairs, and even stayed with her – us – when she traded in her card for her diploma. He told me CeCe had calmed his nerves. Imagine that! He stayed right up until I met his mom – and his sister, his grandma, his girlfriend. They were all proud of him – his graduation….He was such a good boy.”
She closed the album and pushed it to the side of her chair. Her face was composed. She smoothed her hands over the tears, then back to her lap where they lay, calm and still. “I’m a little tired, now. Gonna take a catnap – visit my girl. She always brought out the best in people. I miss that. ..miss her….”. I watched her drift off – quiet breathing, chest barely moving. And then a smile – forming just like a rainbow, twitched at the corners of her mouth…and stayed. Serene. Pure. Sweet.
I think she found her girl.
Heavenly Father, Thank you for kindness; help us to recognize it in our everydays. Help us to appreciate and encourage those who choose kindness. Bless them.