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Full Circle

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I work in a small, private, progressive school. We just celebrated our 50th Anniversary. Our philosophy begins with the premise that all kids are capable. From there, we pledge to nurture each child, every day in the hopes of fostering a love of learning that will last a lifetime.

Two weeks before the last day of school, she appeared in the doorway of our office. It was a Friday afternoon, only minutes before dismissal; the calm before the bus-boarding-storm. She was chattering a-mile-a-minute when I looked up from my desk and saw her standing there. She was an older woman, maybe in her early sixties, dressed more like she was in her thirties. She had long, wavy brown hair that was graying at the roots. There was something light even comical about her tone and her appearance. Her accessories jingled and jangled as she waved her hands to emphasize her words like a conductor would at a symphony. Barely stopping to breathe, she incessantly, repeated her name, asking if myself or my co-workers knew who she was , no — not her actually, but her daughter. Did we recognize her daughter’s name because her daughter went to this school, oh, about 30-years ago. Like a leaky faucet the words trickled out into a tale that finally ended with the keeping of a promise and a story that left a profound stirring inside me.

I did not know her, her daughter or recognize their name but our (interim) Director did, which didn’t surprise me. Before standing in as Director, while we searched for a replacement, Diane was a teacher for 34-years at our school. In fact, she was this woman’s daughter’s kindergarten teacher – oh, about 30-years ago and remembered them both well.

I was going through a very hard time back then, the woman told us. I had three children, no money and was in the middle of a divorce. Eric was running the school then and the tuition was $900.

Pause.

Eric was running the school then.

Eric, was Diane’s best friend for many, many years. He was also a teacher at our school for many, many years and although we didn’t actually have a director-by-title up until recently, by all accounts, Eric was the director here, for many, many years. Eric, was a very special person and much like Diane, beloved by hundreds if not thousands of students and parents. Eric passed away about 5-years ago from a form of Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Sometimes in our day-to-day dealings, when there’s a hard decision to make at school, I think to myself, what would Eric do? I know my co-worker, our office manager and Eric’s sister, does too. She said those exact words just the other day. I’d bet, Diane has thought them as well. Eric would always err on the side of compassion, trust and human kindness.

It wasn’t a surprise for the three of us to learn that Eric told this woman not to worry about the $900 tuition for kindergarten that year and to pay it when she could.

She was only in this school for one little year of her life the woman said but I credit that year and her experience here with the success that she is today and every time I pass this school in my aluminum foil car I think about that and promised myself I would repay that debt when I could.

And so she did, that day, two weeks before the last day of school. She gave us $1,000 and vowed to continue to make a small monthly donation to the school from that day forward. Indeed, she kept her promise, to herself, to Eric and to the perpetuation of the human spirit.

The encounter moved me. Profoundly. It awakened in me deep hope that in an unsuspecting, fleeting moment, faith in humankind can be restored. It’s a testament in particular to the power of an act of kindness and what happens to it long after the deed is done.

It comes full circle.

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  1. Anonymous
    June 29, 2014 at 12:31 am

    Wow, what an amazing story. But surprised? Not really so much, right?

    • June 29, 2014 at 1:07 am

      Yes it was kind of amazing & I was happy to witness and no, not a surprise at all :) Thank you for reading/commenting.

  2. dbouji
    June 29, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    These full circles are sweet blessings!!

    • June 29, 2014 at 6:42 pm

      Yes they are :)

  3. June 30, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    Oh, wow, Karen! So glad you wrote and posted this story! I’ve been wondering if you were still going to be blogging as it’s been awhile. I have tears welled up in my eyes over this, as obviously, I’ve been in this woman’s shoes many a time now. And, I can attest that the kindness and generosity bestowed me sits in my heart day after day-and while I still have a hard time asking for help or working out my payments on things so that I don’t go under financially, I also know that one day I will be able to re-pay those whose generosity has been lent without a price tag. I will never forget, as these acts of paying it forward attest to the goodness of the human spirit. Love this story!! XOXO-Kasey

  4. June 30, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    Kasey! Thank you dear friend for your own moving words. Thank you as always for reminding me how that I am not the only one who sees these things. You never fail to ground me. xoxox Karen

  5. July 1, 2014 at 9:28 am

    What a profoundly moving story! Kindness pays!

    • July 1, 2014 at 6:22 pm

      Yes, I believe it does! Thank you, Lady.

  6. Krisy L
    July 8, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    I’m so glad I returned to your blog to read this story. What a moving testament to Eric and to Randolph. I love you all!

    • July 9, 2014 at 8:38 am

      Thank you, Krisy! All the best to you xoxox!

  7. July 23, 2014 at 4:42 am

    This blog was… how do you say it? Relevant!!
    Finally I have found something which helped me. Cheers!

  8. September 11, 2014 at 9:40 am

    What a truly inspiring story, Karen, In your storytelling, you’ve captured the Heart of connection, Community & ‘paying it forward’. Lovely.

  9. October 8, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    I believe everything said was very logical. But, think
    on this, what if you added a little content? I mean, I don’t want to tell you how to run your website, however suppose you added a title that
    grabbed people’s attention? I mean Full Circle | Taking The World On With A Smile!
    is kinda plain. You ought to peek at Yahoo’s front page and
    watch how they create article headlines to get viewers to click.

    You might add a related video or a picture or two to get people excited about
    everything’ve written. In my opinion, it would bring your
    posts a little livelier.

  1. August 18, 2014 at 11:50 am

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