Truly Cool

Truly Cool

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

Truly Cool

Maturity begins to grow when you can sense your concern for others outweighing your concern for yourself.

~John MacNaughton

My heart was in my throat. As Mom and I entered the store, I had only one thought, I hope my pretty pink bike is still there. It would be my first bike ever. But since it was about a week before Christmas and the stores were in total chaos, Mom gently reminded me that it was possible that the bike I wanted would be sold out.

I could feel the excitement in my stomach, and my hands were jittery. I was so anxious to get the bike. I crossed my fingers as we came around the corner to the bike section. My stomach did somersaults when I finally spotted it near the end of a long row. There it was, my big, shiny pink bike! I thought it was too clean and pretty to touch, so I stuck my hands in my pockets to keep from smudging it.

The week went by really slowly. The only thing that we were looking forward to, besides school letting out, was a charity drive that our school was doing for a homeless children’s shelter. We had made little toys for the kids who were living there. I was surprised to see how many were on the list — so many who didn’t have a real home where they could spend Christmas.

Still, I didn’t think as much about helping them as I was thinking about my bike. I couldn’t wait for winter break to end so that I could ride my bike to school for everyone to see. I would be the cool kid for once.

While we waited in the classroom for the bus to come and take us to the children’s shelter to deliver our presents, I sat at my desk writing my mom a thank-you letter. I explained how I had never wanted anything as badly as I did that bike. Just as I finished, the bus driver came into our room to let us start getting on the bus. I ended up sitting next to a guy who was getting a skateboard for Christmas. We talked about how excited we were about our big gifts.

We chatted all the way there and were still talking as we came through the shelter doors. Suddenly, my mouth dropped, and I stopped in mid-sentence. I was in shock seeing kids wearing torn-up and worn-out ragged clothes. I felt sad as I looked around the place.

Our teacher encouraged us to find a kid who was staying in the shelter and visit with him or her. I noticed a little girl sitting in a corner by herself. When I walked up, it seemed like she didn’t want to say “hi” or anything, but I felt like I should say something to her. So I started out by asking her if she was excited about Christmas coming. I told her about how I was getting a bike. Suddenly, her eyes lit up, and a huge smile came across her face. She told me that she would be the happiest kid in the world if she could ever get one.

Then she explained to me what her life had been like. To say the least, she didn’t have a normal childhood. She had never known what it was like to live in a real home of her own with pets and everything. Her parents had been alcoholics and constantly had money problems. They moved around often because they either couldn’t pay the rent or would be thrown out for some reason. Things got so bad with them that they finally abandoned her, and she ended up in this shelter.

She no longer had anyone to call family.

I realized that her getting a bike anytime soon was out of the question. I mean, who would buy it? Her parents were gone, and she was alone in the world, other than for the people who ran the shelter. My heart just ached for her.

We got so involved in our conversation that my teacher had to come and tap me on the shoulder to tell me that it was time to leave. I grabbed my bag and told her that I hoped she’d have a merry Christmas and get everything she wanted. Before leaving the room, I looked back and gave her a little smile.

Later that night, I lay in bed remembering what the girl had told me about what it was like to live at the shelter. I thought about her life and about mine as well. All I had ever done was want and want and think that I never get enough. Now I’d met a girl my age who had barely enough to get by and took nothing for granted. I never understood when people would tell me how lucky I was. Now I finally understood.

Over the next three days, I kept thinking about ways that I could help make this girl’s life better. Then on Christmas Eve, while sitting in church listening to the preacher speak, it dawned on me. I wanted to give her my new bike (which I had not yet received)!

When I explained everything to my mom, she gave me a smile that I could never fully describe — one like I have never seen before. My mom found the paper that told what children’s shelter I had gone to and, on Christmas morning, we headed for the shelter with my new bike in the trunk of my mom’s car.

I walked in feeling somewhat sorry that I would not be the one getting the bike, but I also felt really good inside. When I finally found her, she was sitting in the corner where I had first met her. Her head was down, and she seemed to be sad. I walked over and said, “Merry Christmas.” Then I told her that I had something for her.

Her face brightened, and she smiled as she looked up at me. She looked happier than I have ever seen a kid look before. I grabbed her hand and walked her over to the door. Parked outside was my bright pink bike with a big red bow on it. I was expecting a bigger smile than what I had seen moments before, but instead I saw a tear running down her cheek. She was so happy that she was crying. She thanked me over and over again. I knew then that what I had done was truly cool. I knew I had made her the happiest kid in the world.

What I didn’t know was that giving away the only bike I’d ever had would change the way I thought about things. But over time, I found that I wasn’t as greedy as I was before.

I now realized that receiving a great gift gives you a good feeling, but giving from the heart gives you a feeling that’s even better.

I also realized that I had been counting on that bike to make me cool. Although I never got to show up at school riding it, my mom was proud of me and so was everybody else. In the long run, that meant more to me than the bike, or looking cool, ever could have.

~Brittany Anne Reese, 15

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