“Riya, you have a chemistry test tomorrow. Stop playing!”
“Did you clean your hairbrush, Riya?”
“Why are your dirty socks strewn under the bed, Riya? You are fifteen — a grown-up girl. Pick them up and put them in the laundry.”
These are my interactions with my daughter far too often. Four nights back I was particularly angry because she didn’t sign up for community service hours to keep her place in the Junior Honors Society.
Riya and I carried that tension throughout two days, peppered with my requests that she change her retainers and start working on her robotics project before the deadline.
At night we both went to bed in an angry, foul, unsettled mood. I tried to fall asleep but my mind raced with all the naggings and worries ruining my everyday life. I was worried about Riya not passing her chemistry test. Her chemistry was already weak. I thought of waking her up early so she could revise before leaving home.
The next day was miserable — cold, pouring rain since early morning. I dropped Riya off to school, wishing her good luck.
In the evening as I waited at the school gate to pick up Riya, I saw a young mother trying to cross the road with two little children. One child clung to her chest and the other one was in a stroller. While juggling an umbrella, the woman tried hard to pull the stroller.
Before the mother even noticed, I saw the door of the school corridor open and Riya stepped out – barely recognizable in her new avatar. Riya spotted my car, put on her tennis cap and raced down the block, and veered away from me.
I was flummoxed.
Where is Riya going?
Fifteen-year-old Riya predicted that the young mother would have trouble getting the stroller up and over the elevated road bump. Riya made a b-line and lifted up the backside of the stroller, just in time to ease it over the road bump. The baby still clung to the mother’s chest. The mother turned to Riya, surprised by the sudden appearance of this soggy, disheveled-haired girl whom she had never met.
“Thank you so much, dear,” she said, gratitude flashing across her tired face. “You saved me today.”
Riya shrugged and mumbled, “Sure.” She quickly ran back to my car, brushed off the raindrops, opened the car door, and sat.
And that was it.
I wanted to tell her how proud her kind gesture made me. But I didn’t.
Later I felt bad because the kindness that she showed to a stranger in that heavy rain mattered so much in the grand scheme of life. Being a decent, caring human being was more important than remembering to pick up clothes from the floor and cleaning hair brushes.
If she is willing to help a stranger without prompting, I guess she will do just fine in life too.
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