One boy's befriending of an outcast new kid at school stops him from committing suicide.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2000]
One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class was walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books. I thought to myself, "Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd." I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friend tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on. As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him. He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes. My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over to him and as he crawled around looking for his glasses, and I saw a tear in his eye.
As I handed him his glasses, I said, "Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives." He looked at me and said, "Hey thanks!" There was a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude.
I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to private school before now. I would have never hung out with a private school kid before.
We talked all the way home, and I carried his books. He turned out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked him if he wanted to play football on Saturday with me and my friends. He said yes. We hung all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him. And my friends thought the same of him.
Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again. I stopped him and said, "Damn boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!" He just laughed and handed me half the books. Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends. When we were seniors, began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown, and I was going to Duke. I knew that we would always be friends, that the smiles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor, and I was going for business on a football scholarship. Kyle was valedictorian of our class.
I teased him all the time about being a nerd. He had to prepare a speech for graduation. I was so glad it wasn't me having to get up there and speak. Graduation day, I saw Kyle.
He looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than me and all the girls loved him! Boy, sometimes I was jealous.
Today was one of those days. I could see that he was nervous about his speech. So, I smacked him on the back and said, "Hey, big guy, you'll be great!" He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled. "Thanks," he said.
As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began. "Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach ... but mostly your friends. I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I am going to tell you a story." I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the story of the first day we met. He had planned to kill himself over the weekend. He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn't have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile. "Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable." I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment.
I saw his Mom and dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile. Not until that moment did I realize its depth. Never underestimate the power of your actions.
With one small gesture you can change a person’s life. For better or for worse. God puts us all in each other’s lives to impact one another in some way. Look for God in others.
This touching story about the nerdy kid who was saved from himself by the intervention of a kindly schoolmate began its Internet life in February 2000. It is a rewritten, first-person version of "A Simple Gesture," an inspirational tale penned by John W.
Schlatter and published in the 1993 bestseller Chicken Soup for the Soul
. In the original version
, the two boys are called "Mark" and "Bill," and the tale is related in the third person, not as something that happened to the author (as the Internet version presents it).
The key difference between the Schlatter story and what has been passed around on the Internet is the ending: Schlatter's "Bill" reveals to "Mark" that he'd been planning to kill himself that day, but he does so in a private conversation
. There is no tearjerking valedictory speech, no community just alerted to a selfless life-changing act performed by someone in their presence, no shining-eyed parents just discovering what a marvel they have for a son.
Other differences include:
- "Bill's" books are not knocked out of his arms by a gang of bullies; he trips all on his own, with the story heavily implying no one other than "Mark" is around to see this.
- "Mark" invites "Bill" in for a Coke, and they do spend the rest of the afternoon together, but not the rest of the weekend (as in the Internet version), nor does "Mark" work "Bill" into his circle of friends.
- The boys don't become best friends in this tale. They have sporadic contact with one another throughout their school lives, but they are never more than distantly friendly.
The Internet version clearly exaggerates each of the story's main points: A boy who trips over his own feet becomes a lad beset by bullies; a boy who helps pick up books then spends an afternoon with the one who tripped becomes someone who takes a less able youngster under his wing by tending to him all throughout a weekend and helping him make new friends by
offering up his own; two lads who see a bit of eac other throughout their school lives are transformed into best friends; and a private admission between just the two of them is turned into a public lauding at a well-attended event. Whoever effected these changes must have thought they made for a better story in much the same way a fisherman looks to magnify his battle with Nature by claiming the fish was bigger, more feisty, and infinitely more crafty than any previously encountered.
The tale is best viewed as a parable meant to encourage acts of compassion by pointing out the consequences of actions and inactions through the power of example. "Had this boy not been moved to lend a hand," says the story, "this other lad would have died."
In case the knowledge that one has performed a good deed wouldn't be seen as reward enough all on its own, this particular Internet moral lesson concludes with the one boy's act becoming the subject of the other's valedictorian speech, thereby ensuring everyone (classmates, teachers, parents, and the community at large) are moved to praise him for it. In this version of the tale, the warming knowledge that he'd performed a good work (even if he didn't appreciate how key a role he'd played in someone else's life at the time) comes in a distant second to the public admiration rained down upon him. Implicit in the revised form of the parable is the suggestion that you too could become a much-praised hometown hero, the object of adulation, if you were to engage in good works.
Barbara "let us praise" Mikkelson
6 March 2014
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