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To the Girl Who Picked Up My Pencil

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It was a sunny September day in New England, and I was just shy of turning 5 years old. I rolled myself down the wheelchair ramp and headed towards the school bus that awaited me. My parents’ eyes filled with tears and uncertainty as they flashed their camera at me. It was my first day of kindergarten.

My parents had been extremely hesitant about sending me off to school in fear that I would become sick or not fit in. My disease, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, made me susceptible to illnesses, and up until that point, I’d lived a rather sheltered life — with good reason, of course. Also, being in a wheelchair opened the opportunity to being ignored or judged by the other students who didn’t know better. However, my parents realized how important learning and socializing was for a child and decided to take a leap of faith and send me on my way.

I don’t remember much of kindergarten, but I’ve carried one story close to my heart over the years. I was sitting at my desk one day — we sat in groups of four — when I accidentally dropped my pencil and couldn’t pick it up. No one noticed. I tried to get my assistant’s attention to call for help, but she wasn’t looking, and the kids in my group didn’t seem to notice either. It wasn’t until this girl from the group next to mine came over to help me out. Her name was Amanda, and at the time, she was a complete stranger to me. She was a pretty girl with a bowl-shaped haircut and round glasses that only exist in Harry Potter novels nowadays. In a random, unselfish act of kindness, Amanda reached down to pick up my pencil for me, and, from that moment forward, we became the best of friends.

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I’m not sure what it was in that moment when we decided to become friends. But I’d like to think fate had snuck its way into our lives that day. Amanda is the type of friend not many of us are fortunate enough to experience in a lifetime. She’s kind, she’s smart, she’s selfless and she’s one of the funniest girls I’ve ever met. She’s the type of friend who will put your needs before hers, who will gladly eat cookie dough by your side when you’re having a rough day and who will unintentionally make you feel like the luckiest girl in the world to know someone like her. On that one day in kindergarten, Amanda decided to look past my wheelchair and my disability. She broke down my parents’ fears that their little girl may never make any friends. She saw something in me, and she continues to do so each and every day. My world is much brighter with her in it. 

I often think about how my life would have turned out if Amanda had never picked up my pencil. Or better yet if I hadn’t dropped it at all. But life is funny like that. Sometimes, the most random acts of kindness from strangers can turn out to be the ones that change your life forever. This fall, Amanda and I will be celebrating (and definitely bragging about) our 20th year of best friendship. Amanda is my person and my soul mate, and I can’t wait to live another 20 more with her by my side. I’ve encountered many random acts of kindness from strangers throughout my life, but I must admit, this one is my favorite. It gave me my best friend.

So, to the person who decided to pick up my pencil in kindergarten, I thank you for being so kind and love you with all of my heart.

For all of February, The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe the moment a stranger — or someone you don’t know very well — showed you or a loved one incredible love. No gesture is too small! If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please  include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

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Originally published: February 16, 2015
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