When I was in the fifth grade, our teacher, Mrs. Hannah, introduced the idea for a swap lunch. The concept was that mothers (it was 1970) were to create a brown bag lunch, and they would be swapped for a lunch with another student. We picked names out of a hat. As there was an odd number of children in the class, Mrs. Hannah was going to provide a lunch as well. I can’t remember who was the recipient of my mother’s lunch. But I do recall being mortified. It included a tuna salad sandwich on Pepperidge Farm white bread and an apple for dessert. Not a winning combination.
I was the fortunate recipient of Mrs. Hannah’s lunch. It was a thick hoagie, a small bag of chips, a few neatly cut carrots to suggest nutrition, and a regular-sized Hershey chocolate bar for dessert. I had never enjoyed such a scrumptious lunch as much as I did that day. It felt as if it was put together with love. And it was all food forbidden on most days in our house. As far as I was concerned, I’d won the jackpot.
At age ten I worried a lot about being liked. My insecurities were in full bloom. That day with that lunch reassured me more than I could have expressed, that my teacher liked me enough to make a beautiful meal just for me. As one out of four children, and a middle child at that, feeling special was not routine for me. For the most part I lived in hand-me-downs, and was called by one of my sisters’ names countless times. So, to be the beneficiary of Mrs. Hannah’s meal was a rare moment of joy and gratitude.
In the five decades since then there have been so many special moments. They range from a huge smile from a stranger yesterday as I walked home, to the many friends who were kind enough to lend a place to stay when I was a struggling actress in the city. Thank you to Larry J., Phoebe, Michael, Harriet, Astrid, and Jane, to name some of the generous friends to whom I remain grateful.
True kindness is a gift we cherish life-long. I carry so many treasured moments with me. We all do if we let those moments caress us. The arbitrary kindness of friends, family, strangers, and teachers was priceless throughout the pandemic. Benevolence is contagious. Thoughtfulness is always a gift to the giver and the recipient. Thank you to all of you who have brought me a smile, providing a future recollection that helps to make me a better person.
- Smile to strangers. You never know what a difference it might make.
- Feed someone. Whether you donate to a cause like City Harvest or World Central Kitchen, or whether you choose to send a meal to a friend, food is always a meaningful gift.
- Thank a teacher. Teachers gave so much these last couple of years. The best have always been generous of heart. If you’re able to be in touch with a past teacher, or you know a teacher presently, thank them. They work for so little, so a thank you means so much.