A Simple Gesture

Everybody can be great . . . because anybody can serve. You don't have 
to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject 
and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul 
generated by love. 
Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Mark was walking home from school one day when he noticed the boy 
ahead of him had tripped and dropped all of the books he was carrying, 
along with two sweaters, a baseball bat, a glove and a small tape 
recorder. Mark knelt down and helped the boy pick up the scattered 
articles. Since they were going the same way, he helped to carry part of 
the burden. As they walked Mark discovered the boy's name was Bill, 
that he loved video games, baseball and history, that he was having a lot 
of trouble with his other subjects and that he had just broken up with his 

They arrived at Bill's home first and Mark was invited in for a Coke and 
to watch some television. The afternoon passed pleasantly with a few 
laughs and some shared 

small talk, then Mark went home. They continued to see each other 
around school, had lunch together once or twice, then both graduated 
from junior high school. They ended up in the same high school where 
they had brief contacts over the years. Finally the long awaited senior 
year came, and three weeks before graduation, Bill asked Mark if they 
could talk. 

Bill reminded him of the day years ago when they had first met. "Do 
you ever wonder why I was carrying so many things home that day?" 
asked Bill. "You see, I cleaned out my locker because I didn't want to 
leave a mess for anyone else. I had stored away some of my mother's 
sleeping pills and I was going home to commit suicide. But after we 
spent some time together talking and laughing, I realized that if I had 
killed myself, I would have missed that time and so many others that 
might follow. So you see, Mark, when you picked up my books that 
day, you did a lot more. You saved my life." 

John W. Schlatter (Chicken Soup for the Soul)