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While walking home from school, Mark noticed the boy ahead of him had stumbled to the ground and dropped everything he was carrying. Mark hurried to the boy’s side and helped him collect his belongings. Surprisingly, the boy was carrying an especially hefty load. There was a baseball glove and bat, a couple of sweaters, a small tape recorder, and an armful of books. Mark helped him carry the things home and his new friend, Bill, was most appreciative of his compassion. During the walk home, Mark discovered Bill was struggling in school and had just broken up with his girlfriend. When they arrived at Bill’s house, he invited Mark in for a Coke and they spent the rest of the afternoon talking, laughing, and watching TV. Although the two boys never became real close friends, they kept up with each other throughout the rest of junior high and high school. Several weeks before graduation, Bill approached Mark and asked him if he remembered that day they met when Mark helped him with all of his stuff. Mark nodded as he remembered. Bill then asked, “Did you ever wonder why I was carrying so many things that day?” Without pausing for an answer, Bill explained he had cleaned out his locker and was going home to take his life. He had been storing away sleeping pills and was headed home to end it all when Mark happened along to help him out. Bill told Mark how that simple act of compassion inspired him to go on living. He said, “Mark, when you picked up my books that day, you saved my life!” Imagine how many times our small, seemingly insignificant gestures of concern may reignite the flame of life and inspire someone to continue on. Thankfully, compassion has a way of doing that.

Chicken Soup for the Soul, Jack Canfield and Mark Hansen, 1993, p. 35

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