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    A special Gift that Change My Life

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    There I stood at a large and familiar gray building as children with backpacks started to board buses and wait for their parents to pick them up, my old elementary school. The sun was high in the sky and it felt hot and humid as I stood there at the grey gates letting the sun beat down on my skin. I felt my stomach turn and my body breaking into a cold sweat but the most notable sensation was that I felt pins and needles along my face and back, I knew this personal mission would bring anxiety.

    The first part challenge would be to face my crippling anxiety to thank a woman who I thought of highly because of a single act of kindness. “It feels so weird to be back, everything is so different yet it’s exactly the same,” I remember thinking to myself as my friend Lavender took the lead so fearlessly and without any second thoughts, I followed after her forcing my legs to move but they felt like they had a bag of bricks tied to them. Everything was just as I remembered, in fact, it was too close to what I remembered from the smell of markers to the sight of kids marching along the painted lines on the floor like robots.

    I remember hating the school when I was young, every paved inch, every brick in the wall, every classroom. I was trying to focus on the only real good memory I had at this school to even walk past those back gates that led into the back area of the school. The second part of this challenge would be that I couldn’t remember the woman’s name, but I knew her face, so I began the search for her while remembering what she had done for me.

    When I was about 8 years old I was forced into this little public school called Chinook for paperwork that essentially said I wasn’t in harm’s way, there one of the most critical acts of kindness happened to me that shaped me as a person.

    In Chinook, a recess supervisor gave me a coat after I had brought attention to how cold I was. That day everything was covered in black ice, you could see your breath, and the wet cold air cut to the bone. I remember walking up to her at recess since she was one of my only friends at the time. “Feel my hands, they are super cold huh.” I had told her with grinning as if I almost took pride in the fact my hands were so cold that I couldn’t feel them, and as she did feel my hands with her own and after that she only responded warmly “Oh dear, well you should have brought a better coat than the one you always wear. It’s freezing out today!” I looked at her with a bit of confusion present on my face since I always wore the same thin zip-up sweatshirt every day.

    “This is my only coat though.” I had told her not really thinking much of it, I didn’t think it was strange at the time to only ever own one worn out jacket since I grew up in poverty and it was all I ever knew. I was lucky to even own a jacket. She didn’t reply anything more than the three words “Follow me then.” After that she led me around the corner from the play area to the lost and found which was just a rack that held everything from clothes to toys, after digging around some she pulled out a thick orange, gray, and black coat. She gave it to me for free and without another thought, I put it on after that.

    I had given thanks to her then but only years later I understood the importance of the coat, I owed her another thank you for more than just the coat and I had made it a goal for myself to go back to thank her in person. But I didn’t know if I would be able to go back to that school, not without suffering from anxiety so I would have to decide to force myself to go there. Then there was the fact that my memory had grown increasingly worse over the years so I couldn’t remember the woman’s name, but I vaguely remembered what she looked like. She had short light curly hair, thick round glasses that made her eyes look large, she was also a short and chubby woman.

    Years later after she gave me my coat, I decided to go finally back to thank her was when I was with my best friend Lavender, we were at the nearby park that wasn’t even a few blocks away from Chinook. We were sitting on the swings when we reminisced about old school memories, but the topic of the coat came up. “I think I know the lady you are talking about, but it’s just a coat,” said Lavender not understanding the sentimental importance, but I understood and I knew that not everybody had grown up in poverty like me.

    So I responded “Yeah it’s the principle though. That coat was the only good coat that I had when I was small. I wore it every day, you remember?” I asked her wondering if she even remembered the coat I was talking about. She just nodded in response. After that we got up and out of the swings and started to walk out of the lively park and down the cement sidewalk, passing many houses that we had seen many times before when we used to walk this same way to Chinook to attend school every morning. The walk was mostly silent until we got to the entrance way to what we used to call ‘the path’, it was a little paved, fenced in, path that went up a hill to the school leading to the back of the school.

    The most significant challenge I was facing the journey up to the school was the path, I hadn’t been there in years because I had never done well in school environments, so I had left Chinook but I did finish all the way until middle school. I walked up the paved path with my friend only being able to focus on how I was feeling rather than the surroundings, I suddenly felt like this small hill we had to travel up to get there had transformed into a mountain. My legs were getting heavy, my breathing was starting to shorten, and my heart was starting to go faster and faster like I had run a race.

    But after what felt like years we made it to the gates at the top of the small hill, I felt anxiety burn in my stomach and tighten around my chest so I couldn’t breathe, I was here and I couldn’t be filled with more dread. “Would if she doesn’t remember me? Would if she doesn’t even remember what she did for me? Would if…” I had gone through a million thoughts going up that path and standing with hesitance at those gates, I wanted desperately to turn back. This was too much. I kept going following my friend, talking to many teachers in a search for this woman. I gave them descriptions, what she did, what she looked like, and more.

    We must have talked to all the teachers in the school until I ran into my old homeroom teacher, he told me I was too late. I learned that she retired the year before and I wouldn’t get my chance to thank her. Upon learning this I ended up caving into my anxiety and I had a panic attack right in front of all my old teachers, and the children that now replaced me and my old classmates. But after my severe anxiety episode was finished, I had somewhat felt proud of even forcing myself to go there to face my fear for a better and more personal reason. Then I and my friend Lavender went back to her house in the same heat, I still had dread but what made it better was the fact I knew I wouldn’t have to return.

    In the end what I learned was not every thank you can be heard and not every situation gets closure. I also learned that you can change somebody’s life with an act of kindness, whether it be family, a teacher, a friend, anybody can have a profound impact on your life with one action. Or you could be that person to somebody else and change their life with one action and not even know it. I celebrated my own personal victory of going back to my old school environment and getting through it even with the anxiety and the panic attack.

    I had felt proud of myself for even going up the path that led to the school without turning back even though I had my doubts and worries. It was hard but I got through it with determination as well as a will of steel to thank this woman, and I learned something at least from the entire experience. This event changed my life and without the woman giving me the coat, and not being there years later, I wouldn’t have learned such a valuable life lesson

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    A special Gift that Change My Life. (2022, Dec 21). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/a-special-gift-that-change-my-life/

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