Help by the Bagful

Help by the Bagful

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Be The Best You Can Be

Help by the Bagful

Sometimes when we are generous in small, barely detectable ways it can change someone else’s life forever.

~Margaret Cho

Almost immediately, when I walked into my third grade classroom, I spotted the bag in the corner by my desk. It was thick cream-colored plastic, making it impossible for anyone to tell what was inside. I picked it up and asked, “Who does this belong to?’

No answer. Opening it up, I rooted around and saw a blue and red shirt, some shorts, and what looked like some tennis shoes. Unaware of whose bag it was, I asked again, but nobody volunteered. I scanned the faces of my students. They all looked clueless until I got to Timothy. Looking up, he glanced at me and shook his head a little — side to side — just enough to make me stop digging into the bag. I sensed he was responsible for the bag of stuff. I also sensed that if I made him stand out from the rest of the class or if I exposed what was in the bag, I would embarrass him.

Later in the day I took him aside. “Timothy, are those your clothes? Are you going to a sleepover after school? What’s going on?” Timothy scuffed his tennis shoes and told me the clothes were for his friend — one of the other boys in our class — a kid he saw every day. He was concerned that his buddy wore the same two outfits and the same pair of shoes every week. He told me he’d noticed that the clothes didn’t always fit, and since they had been worn by two older brothers before being passed down to his friend, they were kind of ragged. Also, the shoes were sometimes smelly.

I was curious, because most kids in third grade are just worried about themselves. They don’t often reach out to others like this. Later, when I asked Timothy why he had done it, he looked me in the eyes and said, “He’s my friend. I just wanted to be nice.”

I asked him if his mom knew about it. There was no way I wanted one of my students giving away his clothes without his parents’ permission, but Timothy reassured me.

“First,” he said, “I asked my mom if it was okay and she said, ‘If somebody needs something and you’ve got it, you can give it to them.’ So I went into my closet and drawers. I picked out things that were getting too small for me, things I thought he would like. I picked out that blue and red shirt, with a polo guy on the front, especially for him.”

Pulling it out of the bag and examining it, I said, “It’s a colorful and sharp-looking shirt, Timothy. I’m sure he’ll love it.”

“It still kind of fits me but soon, I’ll be too tall to wear it anymore, and my friend is shorter than me.”

I looked at the expression of pride on Timothy’s face, touched his shoulder and said, “Instead of shoving the shirts and pants to the back of your closet, you decided to give them away to someone who could wear them?”

“Yeah, and my mom taught me how to do laundry last year, so I washed the clothes and put the stuff in a bag.”

I asked Timothy when he was going to give them to his classmate. He said, “I already did. I handed him the plastic bag this morning and said, “I have some clothes for you.”

Timothy looked around to make sure no one was close enough to overhear us. “He said he’d take ’em. So together, we decided that the safest place for them would be in a corner by your desk until the end of the day.”

That afternoon, I walked out with the car riders and talked to his mom. Leaning into her car window, I told her, “You have such a kindhearted son. You should be really proud of what he did.”

Timothy just shook his head and smiled. From the expression on his face, it looked like he didn’t think he had done anything special. All he had done was help his friend. But when I saw his friend wearing his “new” clothes in the weeks that followed, I knew both boys had learned a life lesson: little gestures from the heart mean so much.

~Sioux Roslawski

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