When I was in grade school, my classmates thought I was strange. All things considered at this stage in my life, I actually can understand why. At that time, life was very stressful at home, and peer pressure didn't make things much easier. I tried to get involved with different activities to escape what I found emotionally unbearable at home, although at the time I didn't realize that was the reason. I was in Blue Birds, and on one occasion our troop leaders arranged to bring the troop to the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California. During the tour, they discussed some aspects of the occultic practices and spiritual beliefs of Sarah L. Winchester. After a full day there, and an emotional afternoon and evening at home that night, I began having nightmares about things that were covered in the tour at the Mystery House.
At the time I took the tour and had these dreams, I had recently been exposed to the Ouija Board for the first time, and had been watching t.v. movies about reincarnation. My parents seemed to think my questions about this suspected phenomenon were purely for the sake of imagination, and had indulged my questions to this point, because they had no clue I was trying to determine if reincarnation was real. Although I had accepted Christ the year before, I was still very gullible at the time. My sister took advantage of this as much as possible, so I was having extreme difficulty separating reality from fantasy.
The nightmares I had at that time consisted of things like Mrs. Winchester's sewing mannequin growing a mannequin-like head, flying around the rooms of her house, while sporting a ladies' hat and dark 1960's style sunglasses. It would circle around me, stopping to stare me in the face. Then the mannequin went flying straight through a wall, just like a ghost would. These dreams had such an impact on me, I still remember them. I told my mother about these dreams, and I remember telling her my conclusion that they meant I had been Mrs. Winchester in my previous life, and that I must be her reincarnated. My mother laughed and tried to explain that I couldn't be Mrs. Winchester, because people can only be reincarnated after they'd been dead for a hundred years or more. Please bear in mind, my mother didn't really believe this, but told me this to humor what she thought was my attempt to use my imaginative talents for a game of some kind. My mother's feigned logic on the issue fell on deaf ears, however, because I was certain that reincarnation could happen at any time after a person died, and Mrs. Winchester was dead 39 years before I was born.
Being the gullible child I was, and a child with a big mouth, I told some of my classmates what my fear was, and that I thought for some reason, my old personality of Mrs. Winchester was trying to tell the new personality of Judy, something important relating to that big, old house. Of course, these classmates laughed at me, and I became more of an object of ridicule than I had been before. Kids tormented me relentlessly over this for quite some time.
Later in the year, close to Valentine's Day I was still being tortured by my classmates about my feelings on the subject, because they thought I was crazy in the most literal sense. When the holiday arrived, I received almost no valentine gifts from my classmates except for a few small cards and candy hearts. This especially hurt because I was one of those kids who gave valentine candy to everyone in the class, whether I liked the person or not. I don't remember if I cried at school, but something must have happened because I remember everyone being especially nice to me at home that evening; even my sister, who usually loved to revel in my misery (big sisters can be nice, when they decide they want to).
We were just sitting down to dinner, when the doorbell rang. My sister answered, and suddenly I hear her call in a sing-song voice, "Judy! There's a boy at the door for you!" I walked to the door, confused about who would be coming to see me. When I got to the door, Charles, one of the cutest boys in class was standing there. He smiled shyly, and extended a hand holding a little plastic umbrella filled with candy.
"This is for you," he said simply, as I reached out in amazement that someone would be bringing me something. I remember responding in a surprised tone with a big smile on my face.
"Thank you, Charles."
He turned and ran back to his parents' car parked at the curb. My Valentine's Day was suddenly so much better.
We moved when I was in the fifth grade, and I didn't see him again throughout the rest of my school life. Several years later, I ran into Charles again at a mutual friend's house, where I was renting a room. I reminisced with him about the candy umbrella and asked him why he had come to my house that particular Valentine's Day. He explained, "You were on that reincarnation kick, and the other kids were picking on you pretty badly. When you only got a few valentines in class that day, I felt sorry for you. So I asked my folks to help me do something to make you feel better." I let him know it had worked and that I have always remembered him fondly when thinking of my days in school.
"...I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." Mt 25:40(NIV)
The unselfish act of this once little boy created quite an impact on me. I realized with it that there were some people who at least cared about my feelings, even if they didn't really care much for me or my ideas. He was more concerned with my welfare in the only way an 8-year-old could be, than he was with being popular. He demonstrated the unconditional love that God wants us to demonstrate toward each other; the kind of love that we fall short of expressing quite often, being imperfect as we are. Charles showed mercy to a mixed-up little girl, and for that one moment, showed me that I was important at least in some way, even if we weren't the best of friends. In fact, we were barely friends. That didn't matter to him; what mattered to him was that I knew someone cared.
The "random acts of kindness" idea really isn't such a bad thing when you look at it in the light of Scripture. After all, isn't this type of thing doing "for the least of these"? Let's all try to look for those moments when we can even do something small that will let a person know that they are important. Let's be sure to carry a candy umbrella with us for someone who may need it. They aren't just important to us; more significantly, they are important to our Lord.
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Great story. I always tell my kids that any little gesture can make some kid's day. Good work.
Judy, your article touched my heart deeply. I think Charles is the perfect example of a good neighbor. It is a very encouraging story.
Kids can be so cruel, sweets. I can remember being asked to say "dirty" words when I was growing up because of my speech impediment. I wish I had a "Charlotte" in my young life to lessen the stings of the harrassment. But then agian, the Lord did put you in my life for a wife who has my best interest at heart.