It was a small kindness, so insignificant on the big scale of things, that you might wonder why I’m making such a big deal about it. Even the one who did the kindness shared with me that she didn’t recall the event when I contacted her about relating this story. Nevertheless, when I decided to create Life in Galway, I thought that this is a story that ought to be told.
I am by nature calm. Troubles seldom leave me overcome with emotion. What can unsettle this heart of mine is to be touched by an act of kindness. Goodness moves me. So you can see, reader, in the everyday course of life, being by nature phlegmatic, if something happens that greatly moves me, I’m going to remember it. Usually, such things are worthy of telling others about. So here goes. Let me share with you this story of unforgettable kindness.
Martha and I came to Galway in the late 70s. A year after our arrival a baby girl was born, the first of three girls. She was named Joy Lynn. Lynn means “overflowing.” This little girl lived up to her name as she filled our hearts with overflowing joy. She was a timid but happy child and when the day came for her to go to school it was hard for us, especially Dad, to put her on the bus that first day. We were concerned. How would she do in her new surroundings?
Prior to that day, Mrs. Sowle, the Elementary School principal, had said in a meeting for parents that each child is unique and that means that they do not all set off from the starting block the same in this great race called education.
Though Joy was somewhat shy, she was very likeable and had many friends. Yet over time it became apparent that she was having trouble academically. After extensive testing, it was determined that she was going to need extra help. She was able to stay in the classroom with her friends, but she would be taken out for remedial programs. Though she would be completely mainstreamed by fifth grade, her academic struggles weighed heavily on our hearts, as we loved her so. Joy’s summers were filled with summer school. In the midst of it all, Joy was still a joy. She seldom would complain. She just plugged away at her class-work and study while others enjoyed a school-less summer.
When Joy was in fourth grade, she was in a play called “The Little Match Girl.” She had a dancing part. She beamed and we were so proud of her. Afterward parents came up to their daughters with flowers. I thought to myself, what a good idea. I wish we had thought of that. Inwardly, I felt like a present-less person invited to a get-together where everyone else was told to bring a gift to share. Then it happened!
I felt a tap on my shoulder and there was Patricia Stoll, Joy’s remedial reading teacher. She said, “Rev. Brandow, I see that you don’t have any flowers to give to Joy. I’d like to give you this flower for your daughter.” My heart melted. What a kindness. This special flower came from the bouquet that she had for her own daughter, who was also in the play. Her kindness touched all of our hearts.
Though Patricia did not remember doing this, her husband, Harry did. Patricia wrote the following e-mail to me.
I was telling my husband tonight about not remembering the specifics of the flower situation. I know I was at the play and had flowers. My daughter, Kristen was in the play. My husband’s response was, “Well, I remember it. We were sitting after the play and you had flowers and you said, ‘Oh, he doesn’t have flowers for her” and you got up and gave him one of the flowers you had. It was in the old cafeteria, not the new auditorium. I remember you walking up with the flower.” He said he didn’t know who I was giving the flower to but he remembered the incident.
You might be wondering what ever happened to that timid little girl who struggled so. After high school, Joy went on to Bryant & Stratton and graduated with an Associate’s Degree. As a child she seemed so fragile, but inwardly she had a reservoir of strength. Joy is now 31 and happily married. She lives in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and is the medical office manager for a thriving physical therapist’s practice, overseeing four offices.
God was good to us in giving our daughters such highly qualified and compassionate teachers here in Galway. Mrs. Stoll was but one of many teachers our children had whom we have come to love and esteem. Patricia Stoll is now enjoying retirement with her husband.
The best gifts are tied with heartstrings
Have you had a similar experience here in Galway?
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Life in Galway, Fall 2010, Issue 2 – pages 3-4