Thud! I lay motionless, trying to comprehend what had just happened. The thick mattress was only a foot from my original takeoff point. How had I ended up on the floor? My 8-year-old mind had carefully calculated the stunt only minutes before. I would sprint from the living room to the entrance of my parents’ bedroom, building momentum as I went. Then, in one athletic leap, I would reach the top of the bed. It seemed like a foolproof plan. But there was one thing I had failed to consider and experienced as a result: the rebound factor.
My dad heard the commotion from the other room, and when he realized that the thud was me, he quickly came to my aid.
“Are you alright, Bri? What’s happened to your arm?”
My arm was bent awkwardly and had begun to swell. My dad and grandparents rushed me to the hospital. After numerous X-rays and many hours in the emergency room, the doctors discovered that I had chipped a piece off the end of my elbow. I would need surgically inserted pins to hold the bones in place, allowing the break to heal correctly. I now faced my biggest fear: an operation—including an overnight stay in the hospital.
A nurse escorted my dad, my grandparents and me through a corridor lined with patients and toward the back of the ward. The operation would happen in just a few hours. Doctors hurried to and fro, carefully monitoring each of the hundreds of children scattered throughout the ward. Finally, we were led into the room I had been assigned. My stomach sank and tightened. My heart raced faster than the doctors passing through to monitor all the other patients. My eyes began to well up with tears—until the tears were gushing down my cheeks. I was petrified.
After about half an hour of my sobbing, a frail boy perhaps a year or two older than me emerged from his bed on the opposite side of the room. He had evidently been in hospital for a while. His mother later told my dad that he had a ruptured pancreas and would be in the hospital for at least another six months. As he slowly made his way toward me, I noticed a small white plaster figurine in his hand—the kind that children paint on. He slid it into my grandmother’s hand and told her that his friend had given him the painting set to help him feel better while he was in the hospital. He had painted this plaster figurine as a gift for me, hoping to ease my fears about the surgery.
I was shocked. This boy could have kept that figurine for himself and forgotten all about me. He could have stayed in his bed and focused on his own recovery. That certainly would have been much easier. Instead, he saw an opportunity to give by uplifting and encouraging me, and he willingly embraced it. Thanks to him, I went into the surgery much more relaxed. I still had reservations about it, but I knew that there was someone out there who cared about my recovery.
That boy’s example taught me just how tremendously powerful one small act of kindness can be in uplifting others. Even my grandmother was uplifted by his thoughtful gift to me. It has been 12 years since I went in for the surgery, but the small scar on the outside of my elbow still reminds me of the opportunity I have to give the gift of encouragement.
We each have this same daily opportunity to give the gift of encouragement—whether it is through a thank you card or note of appreciation, a compliment to a friend, or even a simple smile to the bus driver as you board the school bus in the morning. It may seem like a small thing to you, but your plaster figurine may just change that person’s day, week or maybe even their life.