Sometimes all it takes to reform lives is a small gesture of kindness which creates a huge impact. Kindness brings us the real joy of life and inspires more acts of kindness (Salzberg). One of the inspiring moments that I experienced occurred when I was in second grade. At the beginning of the class year, a new student transferred to our class from another school. Our teacher would usually introduce the new student to the class before class would begin in the morning. I remember the morning, a skinny little boy with round frame glasses stood in front of our class. Our teacher, Miss Christina announced to the class,
“Today, a new student Michael Regan is joining us. Michael, please introduce yourself to the class.”
The boy seemed reluctant to speak at first and then in a very low voice, he uttered,
“Hi! My name is Michael.”
Then he stood there silent for a while. The teacher told him to sit in the front row, two seats away from me. Soon the class started. Every day after class, we would have an arts and crafts period. The students were free to draw, create paper crafts, and paint, etc. Our teacher would take our class, in a line, to ‘arts and craft room’.
On the first day, our art teacher, Miss Ruby asked us to draw something we like to eat for lunch. She encouraged us to use as many colors as we like. She, with a big smile on her face, said to us,
“The student who will draw the most delicious lunch will receive a prize!”
Everyone was already excited to draw food and the announcement of prize brought the shine in our eyes.
So, we grabbed the pencil boxes and watercolors and starting drawing and painting. Miss Ruby would come to us and appreciate our drawings. The new student, Michael, sat next to me. For a long time, he looked at the paper and colors blankly. Miss Ruby came to him and asked,
“Michael, why don’t you draw us your favorite food?”
Michael did not reply but grabbed a pencil and started drawing. After an hour, Miss Ruby clapped her hands and said,
“Time is up. Let’s see who has drawn the best lunch.”
We got excited to show our drawing. Everyone held their drawings in their hands and one by one came to the front of the class and described their picture. I had drawn my favorite pasta with red sauce. I excitedly showed my colorful drawing and described it. Next was Michael’s turn. Miss Ruby called his name, but he replied,
“I can’t. It is not complete yet.”
The teacher encouraged him to come and show what he has made. As soon as he got up and shown his picture, the class started laughing. His drawing skills looked better than the rest. But weirdly, he colored the food items the colors they were not supposed to be. The teacher politely asked him to go back to his seat.
With his head down and paper almost crumbled in his hand, he headed back to his seat. After everyone showed their drawing, one of my classmates, Alex got a coloring box as he made the best drawing of a steak. After the class, the teacher came to Michael to ask what happened. He said,
“I think I mixed the colors.”
The teacher patted his back and went to the teacher’s room. While he sat there for the next few minutes. I was confused to talk to him.
The next day, in our art class he resisted drawing or painting and sat in a corner. He would not participate in the art class even when the teacher insisted. Although he was sharp and quickly responded to math and science quiz. Two days later, the teacher called out his name and ask him to visit her in the office. The same day, while walking down the hall, I tripped over and the chip packet in my hand fell. The students started laughing and then Michael appeared from behind. He helped me get up and clean my clothes. He also collected the fallen chips and threw them in a nearby dustbin. I was amazed by his kindheartedness.
The next day, he did not show up at school. I was curious to know the reason. After the class, I went to my teacher to ask about. She told me,
“He has taken a leave to visit the hospital.”
I got worried and after I reached home, I told my mother about it. She agreed that if he did not come to school tomorrow also, she would take me to his home. I felt much better. She praised him for helping me after I fell the day before.
The next day, Michael did not come to school. So, after school, my mother asked the teacher for his information and took me to his house. When we arrived at his house, we learned that his parents are abroad and he lives with his elderly aunt. His aunt told us,
“I took him to the hospital yesterday. The doctors said he has some issues with his eyes. I did not understand much though.”
My mother realized that his aunt is too old to take care of him. She visited Miss Ruby the next day. Miss Ruby told us,
“Michael suffers from a type of colorblindness and cannot distinguish between orange-red and blue.”
She told further that he had been not able to differentiate between these colors since birth. His parents were abroad and were not able to take care of him so they left him with his aunt. But his aunt was feeble and not able to take care of him. He did pretty much everything on his own.
Color blindness is a genetic disorder (Shichi) and caused due to difference in response of the light-sensitive cells in the retina of the eye to certain colors. There are different types of color blindness found in population, however, only few are completely color blind and others see color disruption (Naifeh and Kaufman).
Luckily, my aunt was an ophthalmologist and my mother decided to get her help. She explained the situation to my aunt. My aunt agreed to help. After proper medical examination, we were told that Michael would be able to see colors if he wore the Color-Blind Glasses. But the glasses cost around $400 at that time. The teacher said he would request the school to fund or allow to raise funds. Michael’s aunt told us that his birthday would be next week. I screamed in excitement,
A birthday present for him that would change how he saw the world would be perfect. We gathered funds and planned a surprise for his birthday. On his birthday, as soon as he entered the class, everyone starting chanting,
“Happy birthday Michael!”
He was taken aback. He did not imagine this surprise at all. The best part was when he opened his present. At first, he thought it was a common pair of glasses. But as soon as he wore it, he slapped his hand across his face. He could not believe that he was able to see colors. Soon enough, he started sobbing and saying,
“I see more colors.”
That day Michael and I became friends and we share the strong bond to date.
Naifeh, Jeff, and Evan J. Kaufman. “Color Vision.” StatPearls, StatPearls Publishing, 2019. PubMed, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470227/.
Salzberg, Sharon. The Force of Kindness: Change Your Life with Love & Compassion. Sounds True, 2012.
Shichi, Hitoshi. “Color Blindness.” Basic Neurochemistry: Molecular, Cellular, and Medical Aspects. 6th Edition, 1999. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK27990/.
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