one of the best gifts a stranger ever gave me. written because of a prompt
|The Stranger’s Gift
I was walking home from school alone as usual. No one wants to walk home with the parish poor. The girl who wore hand me down uniforms and second hand shoes watched the sidewalk. And I was tall. The tallest girl in the 5th grade, so no boy could be seen with me. All of this might have been forgiven if I had been pretty. Unfortunately the combination of poverty, plainness and height doomed me to solitude.
And I had committed one other sin. I was smart. I’m not sure when this happened. I had always been placed in the 2nd group. Call us what you want: Redbirds, Lions, Green Bay Packers, whatever, everyone knew who was slow and who wasn’t. Recently I made the mistake of pulling the highest grades in this group. So I am not only being teased by the smart group, the slow kids now eyed me with suspicion.
Walking home was more fun than getting there. Waiting for me at home were breakfast dishes to do, dinner to be gotten and homework to be done. Mom would come in from work about 10:30p.m. Dad's sole contribution to the evening would be to yell “Keep it down! I can’t hear.” Everyday was the same.
At least the walk home could be fun. I could dream the whole three miles. I would imagine fables and fairy tales. I could be the beautiful princess instead of the real life frog. I could marry the prince and live happily ever after a hundred times before I got home.
Then it happened.
It had been a hard day at school. I blurted out the wrong answer because the teacher caught me daydreaming. The class laughed and I wanted to melt into the floor. The boy next to me whispered “Not so smart after all are you?” And one of cool girls sent me a note that read “UGLY and STOOPID”
The walk home that day seemed longer than ever. The day was hot and my wool uniform was causing me to sweat. Real life was too real and I needed to dance with my prince. Music filled my imagination and the sidewalk became a dance floor. I adjusted my backpack and assumed the waltzing position. Assured no one was looking, I began dancing.
“I bet Cinderella never had to watch her feet” I grumbled to myself. Of course she wasn’t using the sidewalk or dodging litter.
Suddenly there was a pair of man’s shoes next to mine. They danced a few steps with me and then walked away. I looked up from my dancing to a see a smiling face say “Thanks, Beautiful, for the dance.” I was stunned. The man walked away without realizing the gift he gave me: beauty.
For a few moments, I was beautiful. I danced with the prince. I was Cinderella. That memory has been one of the most precious gifts a stranger has ever given me.