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An Act of Goodwill for One Family, A Priceless Gift for Us

My youngest daughter, Tess, is 9 and painfully shy. I try and help her in situations when she feels anxious or awkward, but I’m not much comfort. It seems that conquering shyness is a mostly internal, personal battle.

Last week, we were at the library and I introduced Tess to a friend of mine. I was able to coax a, very quiet “hello” out of her, eyes averted to the ground as she slid behind me.

“Please look people in the eye when you talk to them. It’s a sign of respect,” I said to Tess when we got into the car.

“But I’m shy,” my little girl said.

Later that afternoon, Tess took the bag containing her pack of gum from the cashier at the pharmacy and said, “Thank you,” but wouldn’t look up at the woman behind the counter. I exhaled louder than I realized.

“It’s hard for me,” she whispered.

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We dropped her twin sister off at physical therapy and decided to get in a quick trip to the grocery store. Off we drove, not really knowing where the closest market was. After a while, we came upon a supermarket in a sketchy part of town. As we walked to the doors of the store, we saw a woman with two young boys, holding a sign that said, “I’ve lost my job, please can you help?” I stopped to talk with the woman, as Tess once again, slid behind me.

“What’s going on?” I asked the woman. She was thin and ethereally beautiful. She sort of mimed an answer because she didn’t speak English. Tess tilted her head out from behind me to look at the woman’s little boys sitting on the ground next to their mom. Tess smiled at them and they broadly smiled back. “Okay,” I said, holding up my index finger as if to signal, "Hold on a second," took Tess by the hand and walked back to the car.

“Tess, I keep a 50 dollar bill in the car in case of an emergency. Do you think this is an emergency?” I asked my shy daughter. “Yes. For sure. It is for sure,” Tess replied, then she added, “Can I give the money to the lady?”

On the ride home, Tess had a huge smile on her face. ... She was sincerely grateful to have been of service to someone.

We walked back to the supermarket entrance. Tess looked the woman in the eye and handed her the money. The woman was taken aback by the amount and hugged Tess. We walked into the supermarket and Tess said, “Can we do more for that lady and her little boys? Can I go ask her if they’ve eaten today?” “Yes, of course,” I said, “Do you want me to come with you?” Tess looked confidently up at me and said, “No. I can do this on my own.”

Through hand gestures, Tess was able to surmise that they had eaten breakfast but not lunch, so we picked up some grapes, bananas, pretzels, cheese and waters, and ice cream cones for the boys. I grabbed the few things I needed, and as we were checking out, Tess asked if we couldn’t buy the woman a gift card to that store, too, so that she could buy groceries when she needed them. I told her that was a great idea.

We bagged up the woman’s groceries. Tess made sure that the ice cream cones were on top and she carried the bag outside, in the hot July sunshine, to the woman and her sons.

Tess handed the groceries and gift card to the woman; She looked confused then smiled and hugged my daughter and I tightly. We lingered a little in the hot, summer afternoon then turned and walked to our car.

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On the ride home, Tess had a huge smile on her face as she kept repeating over and over, “I’m so glad we got a chance to help that lady and her children. It felt so good to do something for them!” She told her twin sister about it as soon as we picked her up from physical therapy, and it was the first thing she told my husband when he got home from work. She was sincerely grateful to have been of service to someone.

For Tess to see the difference she was able to make in that family’s life was a priceless gift not only for her, but for me, too.

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