Written by Sally Moore

As told by Elaine Beck

Years ago, in the Akron Children’s Hospital waiting room, a young mother and her son waited for what seemed like forever to meet with a doctor who specialized in pediatric hyperactivity. The waiting room was full of people quietly reading magazines while waiting to see various doctors.

The little boy, unable to sit still, slipped out of his chair and began to explore the waiting room,climbing on chairs and exploring under the coffee tables as he chatted incessantly with the various patrons in the communal waiting room.

Exasperated by his antics and thoroughly out of patience his mother swooped in from behind, gathered her child up and deposited him with a firm plop back into the chair next to her’s. This maneuver was punctuated by a no nonsense  “mom” look and a firm, “Sit there.” With the sudden halt to the boy’s antics, quiet had returned to the waiting room.

Looking up at her, the boy pressed his lips together, fresh tears clinging to his lashes.  At first, his mother couldn’t tell if he was angry, embarrassed or had somehow been injured during the swift move.  All became clear when he declared loudly, “Now you did it! You really did it!” The little fellow reached around into his back, pants pockets and extracted two crushed, white ping-pong balls, then held them upward to show his mother proof of his terrible misfortune. “You crushed my balls!” he said innocently.

From the long rows of patient seating, an older gentleman stood and made his way over to mother and son.  Suddenly shy and quiet in the presence of this stranger, the boy ducked his head and kept his eyes locked on the ruined ping pong balls he had dropped into his lap.  Balls he knew would never bounce again- balls that would never skitter across the hardwood floors, or happily rattle together in his shoebox of treasures.

Bending down to be eye level with the youngster, the gentleman spoke with a kindly smile and stated simply, “Young man, you have made my day.”  Addressing the boy with a twinkle in his eye, “I have a business proposition for you,” he said. You see I have a kitty cat at home that will love to play with those smashed ping pong balls of yours on our kitchen floor.  Let me buy those old crumpled ones from you…” He produced two crisp dollar bills from his wallet and held them out to see if the boy liked the deal.

With a timid glimpse at his mother to see if this were approved, the boy looked back at his new friend with enormous blue eyes, giving him an almost imperceptible nod to seal their transaction. Quickly, the boy slipped both the damaged balls into the man’s waiting hand.  In return, the man pressed the cash into the little fellow’s hand with a comforting pat, adding, “Now, when your Mommy has the time, she can buy you some brand new ping pong balls to play with.”

Kindness counts at any age, in any circumstance.  One can never know the challenges, seen or unseen, which others may be facing. Choose kindness.