Unexpected Joy Story Editor:
by Donald L. Rosenkjar Clayton Bennett

California, USA

 It was Christmastime at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, the
world's only liberal arts university for the deaf. The campus was nearly
 deserted, so I was almost alone. It was my first Christmas away from my
 family -- with no Christmas tree, no burning fireplace, no fabulous
 dinner, no laughter, no gifts to open. I just could not afford to fly
 home, and felt awfully sorry for myself.
 On one gloomy, rainy afternoon, feeling dejected, I dragged myself to a
 nearby post office to send a package home. I normally wear a hearing aid
 from early in the morning until bedtime in the evening. That day, I just
 did not want to hear anything, so I left my hearing aid in my dormitory
 room and rendered myself stone deaf.
 The weather was plain miserable. Inside the post office, each window had
 a line of at least a dozen people. I was standing in one of the lines,
 with all the other faceless customers, when the door swung open. In came
 in a boy, perhaps 12 years old, soaked wet. He was selling copies of the
 Washington Post for ten cents each. There was nothing else for me to
 look at, so I watched him.
 He went up to each person and offered a newspaper for sale. Person after
 person, line after line, no one would buy. Most people pretended not to
 notice him. Finally, he came up to me. I told him that I didn't need the
 paper because my college reading room was always supplied with
 newspapers. He left me and went on to other people.
 No one bought any of his newspapers, and I started to feel some sort of
pain about him. I searched my pocket and found a quarter. I motioned for
 him to come over and gave him my quarter. He got fifteen cents change
 for me, and I told him to keep it. He handed me the paper, and I told
 him that I didn't need it. He looked at me, puzzled, then started
 shouting words that I could not hear or understand.
 Suddenly, all the unknown people in the post office turned in my
 direction, and they all smiled. It was an unexpected and astonishing
 moment. Whatever he said must have been wonderful.
 He had no way to know what effect his shouted thanks would have on me;
 no way to know my situation that Christmas. Whoever he was, he had a
 choice, and he chose to thank me in a way which altered my holiday
 completely. I'll never forget his incredible thank you, for it changed
 an otherwise lonely Christmas into one of my finest.

  HeroicStories #411: 22 May 2003

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