A Priceless Gift
May 30, 2014
The information on the note card was limited: Zariya, age 5, likes jumping jacks and My Little Pony. My first thought was great– a child after my own heart. I did not, at that time, truly appreciate the lasting impression a small person dressed in a yellow polo shirt, with hair in long dreadlocks affixed at the end with white plastic barrettes and a most infectious grin would make on me that afternoon.
I attended a professional conference in Clearwater, Florida a few weeks ago. There, volunteer members of a legal organization, the Injury Board, devoted a “free” afternoon to helping the local community. We began by educating the Clearwater Boys and Girls Club about bicycle safety. Then, each volunteer was paired with a child. My partner was 5-year old Zariya. We decorated bicycle helmets with paint markers, predominantly pink, but which also included an occasional blue streak when she discovered blue was my favorite color. The surprise was next: Each child was told that they would help their partner assemble a bicycle, and, the bicycle was theirs to keep when done. Zariya jumped toward me and screamed that she never had a bicycle before. She initially had great difficulty containing her excitement. Nevertheless, she got down to business quickly and very adeptly helped me assemble her bicycle, which she repeatedly proclaimed included “the most beautiful handlebar streamers” she ever saw. Because of my positive interaction with Zariya, I was glad I committed time of service to the local community.
Then came the unexpected. After we finished assembling Zariya’s bicycle, I was prepared for her to jump on the seat and begin to ride. She did not. Instead, she proceeded to help the other children and volunteers assemble their bicycles. She retrieved ice water for several over-heated volunteers. She helped another volunteer search for a missing wrench. And she not only held my hand walking to the playground so I would not get lost, but she later showed her true compassion by nudging me to take a break from our game of tag and sit in the shade for a few minutes. When it was time for us to leave, she appeared solemn until I gave her a high-five and a hug, thanking her for being so special.
I am truly grateful to our Atlee Hall and the Injury Board for the opportunity that afternoon. What began as a chance to give back to the local community, turned out, in the end, to be a priceless gift in return.