It was the early eighties and we were on the bus riding home from school. I was inhaling candy I had received during our class Valentine’s Day party. I could feel my seatmate watch as I consumed too many sweets. I began to feel self-conscious. To make myself feel better - and to keep her from telling others about how greedy I was being - I gave her a lollipop. Her eyes sparkled and her smile was bright as she accepted my bribe. Mission accomplished, I turned to rummage through the bag of candy, searching for a bit of chocolate. As I did this, the girl leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. Taken aback, I looked around us to determine if anyone else had seen it. Then, from that day forward and in all of my fourth grade maturity, I shied away from her until we no longer spoke. We would never speak again; re-zoning efforts relegated me to a school closer to my home for the next school year.
I was lying on the sofa watching television while suffering through a nasty bout of the flu when breaking news interrupted programming. There had been a major bus accident. Cameras panned over a horrific scene of a badly damaged school bus and crying children. I recognized a former classmate sitting stunned on a curb next to the commotion. The news anchor confirmed there were several injuries and one death. The identity of the fallen student was announced later that day during the evening newscast. I bit my lip when I saw her picture – all sparkling eyes and bright smile. Not able verbalize my feelings, I pinned the following poem in remembrance of her:
How is it there, where you are?
Do you play hopscotch on the stars?
Do float ‘round with angel wings?
Do you roller skate on Saturn’s rings?
How is it there perched on high?
Lying on clouds as time rolls by.
What wondrous things you must see,
Still, I wish you were here with me.
There have been times when I’ve thought back to that kiss and my reaction. I now realize the kiss was just a show of appreciation for a perceived act of kindness. I, on the other hand, was always mindful of what others thought. In my preoccupation with appearances, I hurt someone who had shown me more kindness than I would ever receive from the people I desperately wanted to impress. That has been a hard pill to swallow over the years and, sadly, a mistake I would repeat.I believe God allowed our paths to cross as a reminder of how we should come before Him - with childlike innocence and enthusiasm for the world to witness. I know that although her life was tragically brief, she had demonstrated an understanding of a principle I struggle with as an adult – “A new command I give you: Love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35, NIV).