Sometimes the Smallest Gesture…

by Jennifer Schrader
Bowie, Maryland, USA

I was an ungainly child — well-loved by my family, but made fun of often by schoolmates for being too big, a klutz, and oblivious of social skills. I also had some physical ailments in first grade, and long after those problems were fixed, my classmates remembered that I was a pariah and treated me with derision. I had seriously low self-confidence and I deeply feared bringing unplanned attention to myself.

I was, however, generally normal, and as such had an enormous crush on “Tim”, a fellow eighth-grader. I considered him far “out of my league” but I was smitten. Tim, naturally, didn’t know I existed, and while I did my best to maximize those moments where we passed in the hall, I was acutely afraid of being “found out” and ridiculed for my feelings.

One day I went on a ski trip to Maple Ridge. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Tim had decided to do the same! I spent the first hours catching glimpses of him while I rode the little two-seater chair lift back to the top. I thought him, of course, the picture of grace.

Sometimes the Smallest GestureThen, in the afternoon, I was in line three people behind Tim, holding my breath from being so close to him, and he turned around and asked me, “Hey, you want to ride up together?” I stammered assent and he scooted back in line to my spot. My heart was pounding. We got in position for the next chair to sweep us up. But in my love-struck confusion, I stood too far to the left, and the chair caught me square in the seat of my pants and threw me sprawling on the ground. Everyone in line laughed, and the operators stopped the lift and hauled me out of the way. Then the lift resumed and Tim zoomed off to the top of the hill without me.

I was devastated. My eyes were welling with tears. When I got to the top of the hill, I waited a few minutes to compose myself and to give him plenty of room to get away from me, then skied back to the bottom, hanging my head. Yet, who fell in line beside me but Tim, saying, “What took you so long? I’ve been waiting for you so we could ride up together.” I could hardly speak. We got to the front of the line; I successfully negotiated the chair, and we rode to the top together, chatting about heaven knows what, while my heart filled with gladness and gratitude.

Middle school is not where miracles of the heart are all that common. Tim continued to “not know I existed,” and my crush passed on as they all do. But Tim, through that one act, repaired years of social fear and did more good for my self-confidence than he could ever have imagined. We’re in our thirties now and I hope, wherever he is, he’s living the good life.

Originally published as HeroicStories #93 on Dec 4, 1999
Available in The Best of HeroicStories, Volume 2.

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