The Power of a Good Turn

December 2, 2003

Baden-Powell wrote:

One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw this new kid from my class walking home from school.  His name was Kyle.  It looked like he was carrying every book he had.  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 friends on Saturday), so I shrugged my shoulders and walked past him.

A few minutes latter a bunch of kids ran past me toward Kyle.  They purposefully hit him—hard—knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed face down in the dirt.  His glasses went flying and landed in the grass about ten feet from him.  He looked up with this terrible sadness in his eyes.  My heart went out to him.  I turned back and jogged over to him.  He was crawling around, looking for his glasses.  There were tears in his eyes.  I handed him his glasses, I said, "Those guys are jerks.  They really should get lives."  He looked at me and said, "Thanks."  There was a faint smile on his face, but one of those smiles that showed real gratitude.

I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived.  As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I hadn't seen him much before.  He said that up until recently he had gone to private school.  Now, I would have never hung out with a private school kid, but as we walked home and talked, it struck me that he was an okay sort of guy.  I asked him if he wanted to play a little football with my friends on Saturday.  He said yes.  We hung out all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him, and so too did my friends.

Monday morning came, and there was Kyle again with the huge stack of books.  I stopped him and said, "Boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!"  He just laughed and handed me half the books.

Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends.  When we were seniors, we began to think about college.  Kyle was accepted by Georgetown University.  I was going to Duke.  I knew that we would always be friends and that the miles would never be a problem.  He was going to be a doctor and I was going for business on a football scholarship.

Kyle was valedictorian of our class and I teased him unmercifully about his being a "nerd."  I knew he was fretting some over his graduation speech but we didn't discuss it all that much; I was just glad it wasn't me having to get up there and speak!  Graduation day came and Kyle looked great.  He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school.  He filled out and actually looked good in glasses.  He had more dates than I had and all the girls loved him.  Inwardly, I had to admit, he sometimes made me jealous.

I could see that he was nervous about his speech.  So, I good-naturedly smacked him on the back and said, "Hey, big guy, you'll do great!"  He looked at me with one of those grateful looks and smiled.  "Thanks," he said.

As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began.  "Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years.  Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach…but mostly your friends.  I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them.  I am going to tell you a story."  I looked at my friend with disbelief as he told of the we first day we met.  Overwhelmed and deeply depressed, he had planned to kill himself that weekend.  He spoke of how he had cleaned out his locker, carrying his books home, so his Mother and Father wouldn't have to do it later.  A gasp went through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment.

As he concluded his speech, he looked at me and smiled.  "Thankfully, I was saved.  A friend kept me from doing the unspeakable."

Not until that moment did I realize the depth and meaning of my small act of kindness and the power of doing a good turn.

Good night, gentlemen.

Note: Like so many stories that come to me over the Internet, I can't state with any degree of certainly the authenticity of this story.  Regardless, I find its meaning unmistakable.  In each of our lives will arise opportunities in which we can reach out in kindness to someone in need or to simply turn our heads and look the other way.  As you travel home this evening, ask your self, "Which will I do when the moment arises?"