“That best portion of a man’s life: his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.” – William Wordsworth
There are 115 days until Halloween. Did you know? Me either, but the young man at our local pool does. We first saw him last year in the large sand pit. A bit older than the other boys and out of place, I noticed he was taking care to build a perfectly round pumpkin (complete with stripes and a jack’o’lantern grin) at the base of the centered umbrella.
A few of the other children were giving him cautious glances as he worked tirelessly and methodically to write “127 Days Until Halloween,” beneath the sandy globe. I saw this as an opportunity, and began a small conversation of pleasantries with him. After about a minute of taking to this sweet young man, I realized he was Autistic, and not only that, but perfect. Tan skin, shy eyes, and a bright-white smile whenever you mentioned his favorite holiday, he remained someone my children and I looked forward to seeing, because he was just so happy … and who doesn’t want to see or be a part of that emotion?
I am thankful to this boy because he opened up an opportunity for discussion with my kids, about how God creates us all differently, with unique minds, and precious ways that they work apart from everyone else’s. They realized that day that some people see the world from day to day increments, and some amazing minds see it as a countdown to Halloween.
Fast forward a year … sun screened and ready to go to the pool, my kids and I were thrilled when we saw that same delightful boy. He was a year older, maybe twenty, but with one question, we knew who he was for certain. “How many days until Halloween?”
“128,” he said, giving us a quick smile and glancing away again.
And that was the entirety of our conversation, but to be remembered, isn’t that all anyone really wants in this life?
A couple of days later, my son got a little pack of Disney character toys, and among the pieces, found one that was some little character based on the movie, “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” He’s never seen it, and didn’t know why there was a spooky little figure.
“Mom,” he hesitated, “isn’t this a little creepy?”
“No, it’s not creepy,” I told him, “it’s just from a Halloween movie.”
Looking at it for a long second he said, “Do you think I could give it to the boy at our pool, because it makes me think of him and I think maybe he’d like it.”
I wanted to cry. Here was a boy who was willing to give up a part of his new collection, because he remembered someone else who would find a value in it that was greater than his own. I’ve had the figure in my purse ever since.
We waited weeks to see our sand-pumpkin carving friend again, but eventually, after looking around each and every time we went to the pool – there he was. Wading in the deeper end, my son patiently waited for the whistle to blow, signaling that the end of swimming was up.
“Are you sure I should,” he asked my husband and I with hesitant eyes. “What if he doesn’t like it?”
“I’m sure he’ll love it,” my husband replied.
“Even if he doesn’t show it the same way we might,” I added.
A moment later, making his way to the edge of the pool, our son took the chance.
“Excuse me,” he called out to the young man. “How many days until Halloween?”
“118,” he called back.
“Um, I wanted to give this to you because I know you like Halloween and it made me think of you.”
Handing him the little piece, the boy took it gingerly, examining it slightly, before holding onto it tightly, and parting our company. He may have mumbled a thank you, but I couldn’t tell you for sure. I was too busy beaming with pride at my son. As he bravely let out a whoosh of air and a smile, relieved that he went through with it, and sharing how good it felt to do something for someone. I don’t think he stopped smiling the rest of the ride home.
Looking back on this simple interaction, I think it is not the monumental milestones that make up a life … it is the tiny experiences like this that really shape, form, and solidify the character of a person. Rudyard Kipling, in a poem to his own child, wrote, “If you can fill the unforgiving minute, with sixty-seconds’ worth of distance run, yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, and – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!”
To my own son: I emulate the same sentiment. You have filled one minute with a greater good than that which takes many people a lifetime to figure out. You’ve stepped out in kindness, in generosity to make this weary old world just a little bit better. And in those moments, I see the man you are already becoming … and I thank God for you.
Appreciate someone who may not be seen today by anyone but you. See them. Acknowledge them in a way that reminds them they are worthy of acknowledgement. “Encourage one another and build each other up.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11