Don’t Mention It

By Diane Stark

Don’t Mention It

“Mommy, I’m hungry,” my six-year-old son, Nathan, whined from the backseat.

The other kids in the car seconded his complaint. I’d picked them up from school, and now we were headed to the hospital to see their Grandpa. He’d just suffered his fourth stroke and had spent an entire week in the ICU. That morning, they’d allowed him to be moved into a regular room, which meant my children could finally see him.

“I know you’re hungry, guys. We’ll get something in the cafeteria at the hospital,” I said.

“Why can’t we stop on the way?”

“Grandma has been sitting with Grandpa all day, and I’m sure she hasn’t eaten,” I said. “It’ll be nicer for Grandma if wait and eat with her.”

When we arrived at the hospital, my mother-in-law was standing in the hallway. “Is he OK?” I asked.

“Yes, he’s fine,” she said. “He is using the bathroom, so I stepped out for a minute.”

She updated me on my father-in-law’s condition and then I asked if she’d had anything to eat. She shook her head and Nathan went into whine mode once again.

“Can we eat now? I’m so hungry.”

“Didn’t you eat lunch at school, Nathan?” My mother-in-law asked.

He scowled at me. “No, the lunch today was a burrito, and I don’t like that. Mommy was supposed to pack my lunch, but she forgot.”

“I didn’t forget,” I said. “I just couldn’t remember what day it was. I thought they were serving pizza, and you like pizza.”

The scowl grew. “But it wasn’t pizza. It was a burrito, and I hate that.”

My mother-in-law patted his shoulder. “It’s been hard on all of us with Grandpa in the hospital, and your mommy is doing the best she can right now.”

I smiled at her, appreciating her efforts. It wasn’t her fault that even my best wasn’t very good.

Before I could say anything else, a woman poked her head out of an office across the hall and crooked her finger at me. “Can I talk to you for a second?” She asked.

I moved quickly, terrified that my father-in-law’s condition had deteriorated. But when I walked in, she was holding a package of graham crackers. “I overheard your son saying he was hungry,” she said. “I know it’s weird to take food from a stranger, but would you like to have these?”

She was a hospital employee, and the crackers weren’t opened, so I thought it was all right. “Thank you very much,” I said. “I appreciate that.”

She waved her hand through the air. “Don’t mention it,” she said. “You’re here at the hospital, so that automatically means that things aren’t going your way right now. If I can make your day a little better by giving your kids a snack, I’m happy to do it.”

She reached into a desk drawer and pulled out three Ziploc bags. “This will make the crackers easier to divide,” she said. “And I’ll grab three cups of water for them.”

When she returned with their drinks, I thanked her profusely. “Don’t mention it,” she said again. “It’s not a big deal.”

But it was a big deal. As my kids ate the graham crackers, she asked each of them where they went to school and what grade they were in. Nathan’s whining stopped, and I knew we’d have a much better visit with my father-in-law because of her kindness.

When she got ready to leave, I thanked her again.

She shrugged and said, “I was just doing my job.”

I glanced at her name tag and shook my head. “Amy, giving your snacks to other people’s kids isn’t part of your job,” I said.

“Maybe not, but I’ve found that in a hospital, small kindnesses mean even more than they do in ordinary situations.”

I smiled. “Then I’m glad you’re here to help people that way.”

The next day was Saturday. Amy wasn’t working, so I just hung the grocery store bag on her door knob. The bag contained a thank you note and a few boxes of graham crackers.

I didn’t buy them because I felt like I owed Amy anything. I bought them so she’d have plenty to give the next time someone needed her small kindness.

Because as much as Amy wanted to minimize the help she’d offered us, I knew how much it meant to my kids and me.

That day, a few graham crackers had made a hurting family feel just a little bit better, and I knew that Amy was right. In some situations, a small act of kindness can make all the difference in the world, and Amy’s kindness was definitely worth mentioning.

About this writer

  • Diane Stark Diane Stark is a wife and mom of five. She loves to write about her family and her faith. Her essays have been published in over 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

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One Response to “Don’t Mention It”

  1. The kindnesses of strangers often go unnoticed. This was a nice tribute to Amy and her thoughtfulness.

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