The summer between high school and university, I worked as a counselor at a daycare center jointly funded by churches and the city, for underprivileged and handicapped children.
My favorite of all the kids was a darling, extremely precocious, 4-year-old girl named Emily. She was one of the poor kids, although you might have thought she was crippled, since she made me carry her everywhere. (Perhaps I didn’t fight her tooth and nail on that all the time, but she did wear me out – I mean, she must have weighed at least 30 or 40 pounds, right? – and that gets heavy after awhile.)
Near the end of the summer, about 2 weeks before the program was ending, came Emily’s last day – because her family was moving away. I thought I’d buy her a going-away present, and so I asked her, “If you could have ANYTHING in the world, what’s the one thing you’d want most?”, fully expecting the answer to be something like, “a Barbie doll”. Therefore, I was absolutely stunned when she replied, “For my parents to have a real house”. I don’t know what their living conditions were, but I could vaguely picture her playing in the background and listening to her parents sitting at the kitchen table late at night dreaming about being able to afford a house. But the idea that a 4-year-old would latch onto that just blew my mind. Shoot, I wished I could buy her parents a house!
Well, i bought her a doll anyway. When her mother arrived to pick her up for the last time that afternoon, I introduced myself and said, “You probably already know this, but your daughter is the most amazing little girl in the world.” Her mom smiled and nodded, and replied, “Yeah, I do already know that.”
Just before they left, Emily gave me a big hug and a kiss on the cheek, and blew me away again by pronouncing, “I’ll never forget you, Jack.”
Yeah. I’ll never forget you either, Emily.
(accompanying photo is not actually Emily, but she was at least that cute, and she was indeed a
blonde – perhaps her only flaw)