One day, when I was a Freshman at high school, I saw a kid from my class walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books. I thought to myself, why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd. I had quite a weekend planned, parties and a football game with my friends tomorrow afternoon, so I shrugged my shoulders and went on. As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running towards him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying. He looked and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes. My heart went out to him.
I jogged over to him and as he crawled around looking for his glasses, I saw a tear in his eye. As I handed him his glasses I said, “Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives.” He looked at me and said, “Hey thanks!” His face really changed, with the terrible sadness disappearing. Instead there was a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude.
I helped him pick up his books and walked home with him. We talked all the way, and I helped him carry his books. He turned out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked him if he wanted to play football on Saturday with me and my friends. He said “yes.” We hung out all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him. And my friends thought the same of him.
Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends. He was going to be a doctor, and I was going for business on a football scholarship. Kyle got top marks in our class, I teased him all the time about being a nerd.
He was asked to prepare a speech at the graduation. I was so glad it wasn’t me having to get up there and speak. I saw Kyle on graduation day, he looked great. He was one of those guys who really found himself during high school. He filled out, and actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than I did, all the girls loved him! Boy, sometimes I was jealous — today was one of those days. I could see that he was nervous about his speech, so I smacked him on the back and said, “Hey, big guy, you’ll be great!” He looked at me with one of those looks, the really grateful for one, and smiled. “Thanks,” he said.
As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began. “Graduation is a time to thank those who have helped you make it through those tough years, your parents, your teachers, maybe a coach… But mostly your friends. I am here to tell you that being a friend to someone is the best gift that you can give them. I’m going to tell you a story.” I just looked at my friend in disbelief as he told the story of the first day we met. He had planned to kill himself over the weekend. He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so that his mum wouldn’t have to do it later, and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile. “Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable.”
I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment. I saw his mum and dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile. Not until that moment did I realise its depth. So never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture you can change a person’s life — for better or for worse.