By Richard Mabey Jr.
Each of us has within us the power and the ability to uplift another person or to bring someone down. On many levels, from the subconscious decisions we make to the conscious decisions, we enact deeds, speak words, and invoke energies that can bring joy to a person’s heart or bring a sense of shame and hurt. The choice is clearly our own.
On Valentine’s Day of 1966, at the age of 12 and in the seventh grade, a dear and wonderful friend made a conscious decision to become a source of upliftment and joy to my life. So much so, that 55 years later, I am writing about that precious moment in time.
It was around the dawn of the second week in February of 1966, that I was admitted to the Barnert Hospital for the second time within two months, in my battle with a severe case of Rheumatic Fever. I am sure that the administrators at the Barnert Hospital meant well, but it was a very scary experience for me.
Back in 1966, they had something called the Children’s Ward. The room was about half the size of an average high school gymnasium. It is safe to say there were about 50 bedridden children in various stages of healing, lying in their beds, in this big room.
There were no walls between the beds. When a child was examined by a nurse or doctor, temporary dividers on wheels were sometimes used to give the child patient some degree of privacy. Visiting hours were strictly adhered to. They were from ten to twelve in the morning, from two to four in the afternoon, and then from six to eight in the evening.
I remember being lonely and missing my pals from school. I missed going to the scout hikes and campouts. I missed going to youth fellowship at my church. And, ironically enough, I missed going to school. For myself, it was a time of reflection, a time of healing, a time of regaining strength.
I remember this, oh so well. On the Monday afternoon of February fourteenth, Mom came to visit with me, with her sister Bertha. My sister Patti had made a handmade card and had bought a little box of candies filled inside a red box that was shaped like a heart. Mom brought me three or four comic books. And, Aunt Bert gave me a Mad magazine. And, intermingled between the comic books that Mom gave me, was a card that had been mailed to me at home.
I remember looking at the envelope of this very special card. The envelope was hand-written, with a return address from Pamela Rawlings. A certain joy filled my heart when I saw Pamela’s artistic, loopy handwriting. The dots on the i’s and j’s were exaggerated, open circles. It was Pamela’s unique handwriting style.
I was kind of shy to open the card with Mom and Aunt Bert by my bedside. I think that my mother sensed my awkward feelings and encouraged me to open Pamela’s card. Aunt Bert also encouraged me to open the card. And, so I did.
It was one of those old-fashioned cards, with flowers on the front of it. But the flowers were cut out, so that the card was not squared off in the upper right-hand corner. I don’t know if they make greeting cards like that any more.
On the left-hand side of the inside of Pamela’s card was a little note of what was happening in school. For some reason, I still remember that Pamela wrote me that she had won second place in the spelling bee in her class. Why is it that certain things stay in our minds with indelible ink?
Pamela had signed her card, “Luv, Your Friend, Pamela.” Misspelling the word love was the trend of middle school children back in the mid 1960’s. I simply closed the card and opened my beloved sister’s box of Valentine’s candy. I offered a chocolate candy to Mom and Aunt Bert. It was kind of a sacred moment in time.
Today, my friend Pamela lives in Virginia. From time to time, we email each other. The friendships that hail back to first grade are most special and sacred entities. They seem to have a spiritual foundation to them.
That moment of joy that Pamela Rawlings brought to my heart, mind, and soul was priceless. It brought a sense of hope, to a very lonely 12-year-old boy, that someone from his class cared enough to mail out a card.
When I went away to college, after having attended a local community college for two years, I brought Pamela’s Valentine’s Day card with me. In my struggle with learning college-level chemistry, I would often take a few moments to hold and look at Pamela’s card. It never failed to bring a sense of joy and splendor to my heart. It always gave me the fortitude to carry on with my painful studies.
To bring joy to another person’s heart or to bring hurt and anguish. That is the choice we face, nearly each and every day of our lives. Please know, none of us will ever know the far-reaching effect that one single act of kindness will have upon another person’s life.
Richard Mabey Jr. is a freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.