A Flower for Leourn

A Flower for Leourn

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Create Your Best Future

A Flower for Leourn

We can do no great things, only small things with great love.

~Mother Teresa

We were out to change the world. This was our time, our senior year. My best friend Beth and I had big dreams and big hopes for our last year at high school. We were ready for a miracle we knew we would see. With great anticipation, we started the year with my senior quote in mind: “But God and I have big dreams, and with big dreams you can’t give up, you have to keep pressing on.”

I would like to say that I was the first to notice her, but in my world of “big dreams,” this one small, quiet freshman did not appear on my radar. My sensitive best friend Beth was the first to notice her.

“Kristi, did you see the girl standing by us in the lunch line? She looks so lost, so out of place,” Beth said to me. We had heard of a family that had just moved to our town from Cambodia. We knew there was supposed to be a new girl at school from that family, but we had yet to meet her . . . until now.

Leourn was a small, dark-haired beauty. She was thrust into a new country where she struggled with the little English she knew, and it made it very hard for her to get to know people in our small town. She was starting her freshman year and was trying her best to blend in without attracting any attention.

We watched in the lunchroom at our “Senior Table.” This table was reserved for our senior sport jock friends, and no one else. Leourn would get her lunch tray with the rest of the students, but she always kept her head down with her eyes focused on the floor. She would then head to the only table of girls she recognized. Unfortunately, it was the table for the most popular girls in the freshman class. Every single day, Leourn would sit at the very edge of her seat and eat as fast as she could. She kept her eyes fixed on her food and we never, ever saw her look up. We would watch in dismay at the interaction of the other girls at her table. They would make gestures to one another and laugh at Leourn while she ate.

As we paid attention over the next week, we never heard anyone so much as say “Hi” to Leourn.

We watched as Leourn walked, with her head always down, through the halls of a high school where most didn’t even acknowledge her existence. She was a girl invisible.

Beth and I prayed and talked — what could we do to help Leourn? With love and faith, we decided to try our hardest to let one lonely girl know that there were people who knew she existed and, more importantly, that there was a God who knew and loved her.

As the weeks and months passed, Beth and I made an effort to let Leourn know that we cared. We sat with Leourn at the freshman girls’ table. The other freshman girls tried to let us in on the joke that “nobody talks to Leourn.” Their lofty glances and laughs were met with death stares from two upperclassmen.

We sought out Leourn in the halls and said “Hi” and tried to continue to engage her in conversation. I would like to say that, at this point, Leourn responded to us with smiles and small talk. But she didn’t — Leourn still kept her head down and responded very little. We were okay with that, because we knew that God wanted us to keep trying to spend time with Leourn, regardless of her response.

When February rolled around, our school sold carnations that we could send to one another for Valentine’s Day. I immediately thought of Leourn and decided I would send her a flower for the holiday. When I thought about what to write, it occurred to me that keeping it simple would be the best for someone just learning our language and customs.

So I just simply wrote:

Happy Valentine’s Day, Leourn—

I want you to know how much God loves you.

Your friend, Kristi

I will never forget that Valentine’s Day.

For the first time, Leourn was the one who sought me out. She found me in the hall with the carnation clutched tightly in her hands. Then she did something amazing. She looked up.

She actually took her eyes off the floor, looked up at me with beautiful beaming eyes, and in a low choked whisper said two words: “Thank You.”

It was a life-changing moment for me.

You see, Beth and I were out to change the world, but instead God was changing me. I learned that I may never be president, be famous, or have a million dollars to my name. But I learned that what Christ wanted from me was for me to love Him with all my heart and all my soul so that I could spread that love to everyone around me — one flower at a time.

It’s like walking out to a pond and throwing in one tiny pebble. Though that pebble is incredibly small compared to the pond, it still creates ripples that affect the water around it. As I learned my senior year, every word that comes from our mouths and every action we carry out affects the people around us, whether we realize it or not.

We ended our senior year not knowing how many people’s lives we touched. However, Beth and I knew that our two lives were changed. Leourn went on to graduate from our small high school three years after us, and I went back for her graduation. As Leourn walked out of the gymnasium after the ceremony, I gave her a big hug and told her congratulations. As she looked up at me, the tears streamed down her face. I asked her if the tears were happy ones or sad ones, and she said they were both. I gave her another hug before she walked off into the crowd.

As I look back, I hope in my own small way that we helped to make her first year in a new country easier, and that we brought a little light into her world.

~Kristi Powers

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