My son, Evan, was born with a kind and generous spirit. It was recognizable from an early age when he demonstrated concern for his friends and family members. People complimented my husband and me and told us we were doing a wonderful job of parenting him. We thanked them, but we often felt unworthy of the praise. Evan deserved most of the credit.
One time Evan got upset with me (mildly, of course) on an exit ramp because I didn’t stop and offer money to a man requesting help on the side of the road. It was pouring rain, and safety was my primary concern. But after Evan’s pleas, I re-entered the interstate and exited again so I could hand the man five dollars. I knew then that he could buy a meal, and my son could fall asleep that night.
Evan’s thoughtfulness isn’t limited to humans either. He can often be found rescuing caterpillars and earthworms from our gravel driveway and releasing the occasional ladybug who makes its way into our home back into the wild. He truly wants everyone (and thing) to be happy and comfortable.
So, given his nature, I wasn’t surprised when Evan told me he had befriended a new student in his third-grade class. “His name is Kriss, and he’s from Guatemala,” Evan said. “He doesn’t seem to understand or speak any English, but I really feel like I need to be his friend.”
I told Evan that was a great idea, and he should definitely try to make a connection. As a teacher, I have seen the difficulties that students face when transferring to a new school, and language barriers can make a child feel even more isolated.
Evan would come home and update us on his school day, and Kriss was often part of the conversation. “Kriss has a teacher who helps him with his English during class,” Evan said. “But Kriss and I spend time together during recess. We like to swing and play basketball.”
“That’s great, honey,” I told Evan. “I’m glad you are enjoying time with your new friend.”
What I didn’t realize was how much time Evan was dedicating to being able to communicate with Kriss. He was staying up after bedtime to watch beginning Spanish videos and had already learned greetings and names of common classroom items.
Toward the end of the year, Evan’s teacher helped members of the class publish a book with their own writing and illustrations. She invited parents to attend a book signing party, and as soon as I arrived, Evan introduced me to Kriss. The two boys then got in line for snacks, and I attempted to make myself comfortable at Evan’s desk. Once I was seated, I noticed an unfamiliar book on top of Evan’s math workbook. It was an introductory Spanish book for children.
I asked Evan about the book when we were driving home. “I checked it out from the library,” he said. “I needed to learn a few things so I could ask Kriss how his weekend was. He has to have someone to talk with.”
I realized in the car that afternoon exactly how hard my child had been working to make sure Kriss felt welcome and part of the class. Evan had assumed responsibility for another child’s social adjustment. It was mind boggling and emotionally overwhelming. I hadn’t taught him to do that. Sure, we emphasized the importance of inclusion and friendliness, but I hadn’t told him to do that.
I’m so grateful for daily acts of kindness and people who pay it forward. I appreciate good deeds, and I try to emulate those who keep kindness at the center of all they do. I’m glad I have someone to look up to…and that he lives with me.