The Worth of a Soul

The Worth of a Soul

From Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrating People Who Make a Difference

The Worth of a Soul

To touch the soul of another human being is to walk on holy ground.

Stephen Covey

By the time Helen was eighteen months old, her eyes were a bright blue, and her hair was a golden red. When her eyes changed from sky blue to sea green, I was certain that she would be a rare beauty.

The camera always adored Helen. However, Helen’s personality and innate kindness would always outshine her physical beauty. Her smile reflected a loving nature that permeated every fiber of her being.

At three years old, Helen had already developed an unusual logic that made perfect sense to her. Of course, she would give away her favorite teddy bear to a child “who needed it” more than she did. In kindergarten it seemed perfectly natural for her to love the unlovable, including the teacher who struck terror within the hearts of the other students. Helen was quite certain her teacher was delighted to be with her, and by the second week of school, Helen was feeding her teacher oranges from her grimy little hands.

By second grade, Helen had become the champion of the weak, the hope of the hopeless, and she did it all with a selfless grace that was nothing short of miraculous.

When Helen reached high school, it was pretty evident that our house would always bulge with teenagers of every shape, creed, and ethnicity.

I still have the pictures from Helen’s thirteenth birthday party. I can pick out the boy who needed to check in with his parole officer before the cake was cut.

Then, there is the girl who couldn’t drink cola because her religion forbade it. We went running across the street for chocolate milk. In the corner was the boy whose parents had escaped from Vietnam when he was a baby, and the girl whose father was a Taiwanese diplomat.

African American, Irish, Filipino, and Caucasian faces stare cheerfully out at me. It was an incredible feat just to round up all the kids for a one-of-a-kind picture. It took three snapshots to complete the photograph. What an unforgettable sea of grinning faces peer out from those pictures, as though the United Nations had dropped off all its teenagers for a day of ice cream and cake.

In the fall of her sophomore year, Helen and I were shopping the malls for school clothes. I was doing some creative arithmetic, trying to make our budget stretch into something that would delight and still be affordable.

At one point, I noticed a man and young girl moving straight toward us. The man was dressed in work clothes, and he seemed to be encouraging the overweight youngster closer to us. I could identify with the girl. I looked back upon my teenage years with horror. These two seemed to be disagreeing and were almost upon us.

Helen had just finished exchanging greetings with one of her countless squealing friends, and as she turned around, she came face-to-face with the reluctant teenager. Faster than the speed of light, Helen’s eyes sparkled with recognition. Her face broke into a brilliant smile, and she shrieked with joy!

“Cindy!” she squealed as she threw her arms around the chubby girl’s neck. Cindy’s face broke into a beautiful smile, and she squealed right back at Helen. Then they both did a hand-holding, happy dance while grinning and shrieking with delight. Cindy was transformed from a rather sad, “just-like-I-was” kid into the vivacious young girl she truly was meant to be. Cindy and Helen chattered away, totally oblivious to Cindy’s father and me as we stood amazed.

Who was this unconsciously generous, loving daughter of mine? How had God graced my life with someone so bright and beautiful? How different my life might have been had there been a Helen to accept and love me when I was a teenager. When I turned back to Cindy’s father, I saw his face transformed from frustration and sadness to joy.

Cindy had seen Helen, he confided, long before Helen spotted her. She had identified Helen as “one of the popular girls.” As Cindy’s father encouraged her to speak to Helen, Cindy had refused. Why would a somebody, she reasoned, want to talk to a nothing?

Cindy’s father had felt helpless to make his daughter believe how precious she truly was. Helen, in one unpretentious act, had given Cindy and her father a priceless gift of unconditional acceptance and love.

Cindy’s dad’s eyes shined with pride and gratitude, but no more than the gratitude that filled my heart for the gift that was Helen. I learned a great lesson that day. I learned that true friendship does not measure another with speculation. Fourteen-year-old Helen taught me that the worth of a soul is not in the eye of the beholder. It’s in the heart.

Jaye Lewis

More stories from our partners