Saturday, April 5, 2008


This is one story that I would like to share to you all. A simple kindness means a lot to others. I got this nice story in the book Ripple of Joy. I hope you like it. I have already blog about this before in my other blog. But because the story is so touching, I would like to share it to others more. I hope you like it.

The girls on the tenth floor were a rowdy bunch. We worked the afternoon shift at the bank, from 3:00 P.M. until midnight. All the checks bank customers had written during the day passed through our processing machines during those evening hours. It was my job to supervise the little crew and make sure, through all the horseplay and rough girl talk, which work actually got done. Most of the time I was able to balance being good old girl and trying to keep the lid on things so the work was done correctly.

Jan was hired about a year after I started my supervisory job. She was very frail-looking girl with light red hair and pale blue eyes, and she was extremely quiet. Her first night on the job she asked me if she could use the bathroom. I told her she didn’t need permission.

I noticed that the “Previous Experience” section on her job application was sparse. One of my big complaints about my job was that, although I supervised, someone else did the hiring. Here we go again, I thought. This shrinking violet will never fit in here. They’ve given me a problem.

During the first month Jan was absent three days, and I decided to have a chat with her. She looks crestfallen when I called her into my cubicle. She explained to me in hushed and halting tones that she had been diabetic since early childhood, and health was sometimes an issue. She apologized for her absences and swore she could promise better attendance in the future. I was skeptical, but she looked so sincere that I couldn’t doubt she meant to keep her promise.

I noticed that the older girls gave Jan a wide berth, pretty much ignoring her, even at lunchtime when they were all busy talking about boys and hair and clothes and movies. Jan, at her age twenty-two, still lived at home and didn’t have much of a social life. Her mom dropped her off at work, and her dad pick her up. She never contributed to the conversation except to offer to help clean the lunchroom or to help out another girl who had gotten behind her work.

Wanting to encourage her, I offered her tips on how to win the monthly employee contest. When I could, I ate lunch with her. She told me about her luck growing plants and invited me over to her house to see her sunroom, crowded with exotic specimens she had successfully nurtured. One Monday she brought some pictures of an orchid that had bloomed over the weekend. I regret to say that, with my busy life, I never saw the actual flower.

One Friday night about six months after Jan started, we heard shouting down the hallway. Fire!

I ran to take a look. A corner of our paper supply room had burst into flames. I called 911, and the fire department responded right away. The brisk blaze was contained successfully, but not before we had evacuated the tenth floor. With almost two hours lost, our productivity had suffered. I asked for volunteers to work late, but most of the girls had reasons they couldn’t help out. Only Jan quietly said she would be glad to stay.

We worked together until almost 4 A.M. to finish up. She chatted cheerfully about her family and pets. By this time she was comfortable with me and was opening up a lot more. She even talked about a young man at church that she had her eye on. I remember being a bit overtired and telling silly jokes to pass the time. She giggled happily. I noticed she looked pale, but my focus was on getting the work done and getting home. “Thanks so much for staying,” I told her when we were finished. “See ya Monday.”

But I didn’t. I never saw her alive again.

Jan’s mom called Monday afternoon to tell me that Jan passed away Monday morning after we worked together. Her diabetes had taken its final toll on her heart. She had gone to sleep and never awakened.

I was stunned. I had never occurred to me that she was that delicate. She was so young that her death seemed impossible. I forgot to ask her mother about funeral arrangements, but her sister called a few hours later and gave me the information, asking me if I could attend. I said I would.

I felt very odd the morning of the funeral. I hadn’t really known Jan very well and thought I would feel awkward at the service. But I had accepted the invitation and was determined to see it through.

Jan’s father greeted me with warm smile and handshake at the door of the church. “You’re Kim, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am. I’m sorry about your loss.”

He nodded. “We are so pleased that Jan’s best friend could be here today,” he said. “She spoke about you often and told us you were the closest friend she had ever had. Thank you so much for what you meant to my daughter.”

The words had barely sunk in when Jan’s sister and mother surrounded me and voiced the same sentiment. They gave me a place of honor at the front of the church, reserved for those closest to the deceased, and I was the guest of honor at the little reception at the family home after the funeral. I had been important to Jan, and now I was important to her family as well.

Whenever I question whether I truly can have an impact on others, I remembered Jan. I’m grateful I was able to make a little room for her in my busy life back then. Yes, I wish I had done more. But Jan thought me that it’s never too late: Opportunity for small kindness surrounds me everyday.

Next time, I’ll make sure to go see the orchid.

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