SGLY: Small kindnesses
“My granddaughter sends me this stuff all the time,” the man scoffed. He shook his head and looked up from his phone at me, realizing he spoke aloud.
We were the only two in the small lobby waiting to get our vehicles inspected — the room smelt of burnt coffee, cigarettes, and motor oil. I could tell the man was embarrassed for speaking, but he piqued my curiosity enough to play along.
“What did your granddaughter send you?” I asked.
The man looked annoyed until he realized he put himself in this conversation. He rubbed his cheek, and I could hear stubble scrape against his calloused hand. His white eyebrows matched his hair, and he wore field clothes that looked like they had put in overtime.
“Ah,” he said with a wave of his hand, “she peppers me with questions all the time. My fingers are too fat to answer all of them on this dang phone. Her mama brings her over once a week. I’ll talk to her before I’ll text. Kids these days need to learn how to have an actual conversation.”
“How old is your granddaughter?”
His expression softened. For the first time I saw him as someone different: a grandfather. “That little pistol is nine. She’s just like her mama. A real spitfire.” He laughed. The bright white of his teeth was a stark contrast to his dark, leathered skin.
“So,” I paused. “What was her question?”
There was a brief flash in his eye before it turned into something I can only describe as a twinkle. Whatever it was, it made us both smile at one another. He did not have to look at his phone. He remembered the question. “She asked what one of my earliest memories of playing sports was.”
It was hard for me to picture this gruff man as a child, but the more he spoke, the more I recognized the little boy in him. He did not wait for me to ask. He started into a story of him playing baseball for a local pick-up team.
“There was no such thing as organized teams and sponsors in the part of town I grew up in. We were poor. And not like the poor where you take handouts. We kept our mouths shut on my side of town, and that often meant we didn’t eat. We certainly didn’t have matching uniforms, and we were lucky if we could muster a bat and ball for both sides to share.”
“Baseball? You played baseball?” I asked, scooting forward in my chair.
“Don’t look so surprised, young lady. I could get around pretty quick, but I was best known for hitting home runs.”
“How old were you?”
“Five, maybe six. We had enough teams to have our own little tournament. It ended up being a big deal. Some of the moms would bring sweets, and the dads would help umpire and keep score. By the time our team made it to the finals, I think the lot of us had gained five pounds from
sweets and having our egos inflated,” he said with a laugh. He looked down at his tattered boots. “But winning wasn’t the best part.”
“What was the best part?”
He shook his head like he was trying to fight himself, shaking away the joy of a little boy to appear grown-up and unaffected. The little boy won, however, as the man locked eyes with me. His eyes were slightly wet, and his smile was wide. He cleared his throat. “The best part was what happened afterward.”
An employee startled me as he opened the door to the lobby, leaned in, and shouted, “Jim, your truck is ready!”
“One second,” Jim said. “I’ve got to finish telling this young lady something.”
To my surprise, the employee stepped inside the lobby, the door closing behind him. Jim did not seem to mind that his audience had grown.
“Well, apparently, the buzz about the big game spread throughout town. We had folks who would never be seen on our streets now sitting in the bleachers. It was the first time in my life I had a crowd of people cheering for me.” Jim stopped talking. “The first time,” he said again, softly.
The employee let out a slight cough to nudge Jim back into the conversation. The employee gave me a little smile and a nod, which I returned, acknowledging his effort.
“It wasn’t winning the game that I remember the most. It was what happened after the game. One of the dads huddled us up and said someone in the stands gave him some cash to take us out for a celebration treat. I remember looking behind me at the bleachers. I didn’t recognize anyone, and most had their backs to us already filing into their cars to head home.”
“That was special of that person to do that,” the employee said.
“Yeah, it was, but the dad who walked us a block or so to the local soda stand made it something very special. He acted like he was leading a parade of celebrities. He ordered all of us hot cocoa and a corn dog. Many of us, like myself, didn’t have a dad who stuck around, but that night he was everyone’s dad. I can still taste that hot cocoa. It was a real treat for this poor boy.” He slapped his hands on his thighs and cleared his throat once more. “So, you was sayin’ my truck is ready?”
Jim checked out and left. I waited a little longer in the lobby before my name was called. I thought of how interesting it was that one of Jim’s earliest sports memories was not centered on how special it felt to win but instead on how special it was to feel special. He never mentioned if he hit a home run in the championship — the thing he was best known for. Compassion and kindness were the ultimate victors in his story.
This gruff man reminded this “young lady” of a dear lesson that day: some of life’s greatest successes are found in the small ways we treat others. We may never know the big impact of small kindnesses.
“I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.” - William Penn
SGLY, dear reader.
(Smile, God Loves You.)
Tiffany Kaye Chartier is a Christian author and opinion columnist. Submit feedback and connect for more soul lifts on Facebook: Tiffany Kaye Chartier; Instagram:@tiffanysgly; and Twitter: @tiffanychartier. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.