Participatory Journalism:
The Giving

by Dick Deniston

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    For me it had been a really rough week, and nothing had gone right. I had one thing after another just fall in on me. I got a D on a test in one of my favorite classes, and I had another test coming up in my worst class. Only two days before, I had gone to traffic court for a ticket I had received, and it cost me 25 dollars. But that wasn’t enough. During the same week I caught a bad cold and had to do push-ups for getting my fifth tardy in P.E.

    It was just one thing after another all week. I kept asking myself what I was getting punished for, what I had done wrong.

    When I finally got to school on Thursday (I was ten minutes late because of a flat tire), I received a call slip from my counselor, who informed me that all of my classes had been changed. That meant new classes, new lunch period, new teachers, new everything! That was the last straw. After third period I took off for home, and I decided I wasn’t coming back until next Monday.

    That’s when it happened. On my way back home I was walking down the street when I noticed a person keeled over on the grass next to the curb. As I got closer, I saw it was a very old lady. She was just lying there, motionless. I thought, “That’s all I need—some old lady to die right in front of me.” So I just walked on. When I had gone a few yards I stopped and sort of turned my head to look. She was still lying there, motionless. I thought to myself, “Should I try to help her? I have enough troubles. Let someone else help her.” So I walked on.

    Then I stopped again, and the first good thought I had all day came to me—what if I were in her shoes and I was the one who was down? So I turned around and looked. She was still lying there. I went back to her. She wasn’t dead; I could see her breathing.

    I put my hand on her shoulder and asked, “Is there anything I can do for you?” I guess I kind of startled her, because she immediately came to. She asked me to help her up. When I got her on her feet, she said she was very embarrassed, and she wouldn’t cause me any more trouble, and I could leave. But as soon as I let go of her she started to fall. I quickly grabbed her. That’s when I insisted on walking her back home.

    She was small, very old, and had a personality like I had never encountered in an older lady before. I could tell she was scared because she gripped my arm like an eagle. She said she had been confined to her bed by her doctor, who had told her she had only about four months to live. All she wanted to do was to get out of bed and just talk to someone because she was lonely. She had walked down the street, become dizzy, and fallen.

    I told her about my week and my problems, and she said something that changed my whole perspective. She said, “Don’t give up. When you are down, there will always be someone or something that will pick you up. Look at me. I was down, almost dead, when you came along and picked me up and gave me your friendship, the one thing I needed most.”

    When we got to her house, she thanked me and ordered me back to school. I agreed to go, though I wanted to stay and visit. I was on my way back to school when the thought occurred to me—the good I had done her she had given right back to me without my even knowing it. In a very real sense she had lifted me off the ground and put me back on my feet and taught me a principle I’ll never forget.

    I suppose if you tried to list the things I have in common with a 90-year-old woman it would be pretty hard. But we found each other and exchanged something that was missing in both our lives. I gave her friendship and a reason to live, and she took me, an empty body with nothing but bad thoughts, and filled me with happiness and love. That day I developed a special feeling for a little old lady who also found a place in her heart for me.

    The day had been bleak and full of problems. But by sharing our burdens, we exchanged a warmth that had been missing in both our lives. (Illustrated by Dilleen Marsh.)