91: A Lasting Kindness

91: A Lasting Kindness

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School

A Lasting Kindness

The greatest gift God can give a person is another person.

~Franz Werfel

Once there was a ten-year-old girl whose family life was in sudden chaos because her little sister died without warning. As the family adjusted to the grief and their new reality, the young girl found comfort in the routine of school. Her teachers were sensitive, and warned the other students to be nice.

One teacher, Mrs. Cohen, gave her extra doses of attention. She often discreetly called the girl over to her desk to ask her questions about her home life, actively searching for ways she could help her. It was in this way that Mrs. Cohen discovered that the girl was in charge of walking her sister and brother home from school—a ten-minute walk in a safe neighborhood. Still, Mrs. Cohen was alarmed. She felt the girl was too young. The very next day, she called the girl to her desk and told her that she had found someone who was willing and eager to pick up the girl and her siblings every day after school and drive her home for the rest of the year—another seven months or so.

Once school was over for the day, Mrs. Cohen walked the girl to what would become their meeting area. There waited a lady, quite a bit older than Mrs. Cohen, who seemed nice and really pleased to help out the kids, despite the fact that she had never met them. Mrs. Cohen introduced her as Gita and soon their routine was born.

It’s not always easy being on the receiving end of kindness, especially for young kids going through rough times. The girl was antagonistic, often even rude. But Gita was patient and understanding. She proceeded to wait at their meeting spot, rain or shine, for the rest of the year and drove the kids home from school every day. She always asked them about their day and weekly brought them to her house for treats of popcorn, chocolate cake, and hot chocolate.

The days slowly became weeks, which soon melted into months and pretty soon, the year was over. The girl turned eleven. During the summer, Gita remained in close contact with the kids and their family.

The next year, the girl was a grade older and no longer in Mrs. Cohen’s class. One day, somehow, the family discovered something interesting about their friend Gita—she was Mrs. Cohen’s mother.

When Mrs. Cohen was asked about it, she explained: She had purposely not told the family this fact because she had been so worried that the girl would feel awkward about having a relationship with her teacher’s mother! (As soon as the girl found out, she started frantically reeling back in her head, horrified at the thought of how many times she had complained to Gita about her teachers!)

Even though she was young, the girl felt warmed by the realization of just how much her teacher had cared for her. Mrs. Cohen had not only given the girl a wonderful gift—her own mother!—but she had wrapped her gift with genuine sensitivity and thoughtfulness.

The years passed and that gift is still enjoyed today. Gita remains a fixture in the lives of this girl and her family. She has been present at school productions, graduations, and most of the girl’s other life milestones. Essentially, Gita became like another cherished grandmother. Gita was involved in the girl’s journey through dating, marriage, childbearing, and rearing.

It has been almost twenty years since then, and I am the little girl that Gita took care of. It is with true delight and love that Gita and I still carry on a correspondence today, despite living on different continents.

I am forever grateful to my teacher Mrs. Cohen for bringing Gita into our lives. Who would have thought that a simple arrangement could have evolved into something so enriching?

~Rochel Burstyn

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