Today (November 13th) is World Kindness Day. It started in 1998 as a movement to increase understanding and compassion between people across the world. To celebrate the day – I would like to share a story with you that changed my life. For me, the healing and transformative power of kindness begins with a cold day in February, many years ago…
Tami had just finished packing her belongings into a giant trash bag. She knew what she was doing was wrong, but no part of her said “Stop.” She scooped up her three year old son Mikey in one arm, and balanced the heavy trash bag in the other as she walked out the door of their apartment. She even made sure to turn the light off before she closed the door and raced downstairs, her son and their sparse belongings in her arms, and into the rusted, spray-painted Volkswagen bus waiting for them. Once she got Mikey belted up in the backseat, she slid into the front, next to her new boyfriend Rodney, and kissed him on his bearded cheek before they drove away.
Rodney got wind of a large stash of heroin eight hours south in Los Angeles. He also found out both he and Tami had warrants issued for their arrest for selling stolen prescriptions to friends. It didn’t take a lot of talking for them to agree on ditching stale Sacramento for a new life, the drugs were just a perk. They were gone for half a day when Tami told Rodney to pull over at a rest stop along I-5 so she could use a payphone. She fished a dime out from the dirty console in the bus and left Mikey in the backseat to make the call. It was to her estranged husband, Mikey’s father, Big Mike.
“I left. I got Mikey with me,” she told him. “But I left the baby in the apartment. Someone needs to get her.”
They argued on the phone. Big Mike told Tami he wouldn’t get the baby; it wasn’t his anyway. He called her a whore and a cheater, and she yelled that he was a loser and a junkie before she hung up on him. When she got back to the bus, Rodney smiled at her and she smiled back. By the time they reached Los Angeles, the baby had been alone in the apartment for almost an entire day. Big Mike must’ve felt a twinge of guilt, because a few hours later, he decided to make a phone call. He didn’t love the baby, not since she was born with dark hair and dark eyes; he knew she wasn’t his child, even though Tami had promised him she was before she gave birth. But he made the call anyway, and in doing so, he saved the baby’s life.
“Hello?” Scott answered the phone. He wasn’t sure who’d be calling so late.
“It’s me,” Big Mike said. “The baby’s at the apartment. Tami left it. I ‘aint gonna’ get it. You need to get it,” he told Scott.
“What? What do you mean Tami left her? Where is she?” Scott was confused. His older sister had a history of bad choices, but he couldn’t see her doing something that terrible.
“You heard me. Tami left the baby there and I don’t know what to do with it. You better get it, because I sure as hell ‘aint gonna do it,” Big Mike said. Then he hung up.
Thirty minutes later, Scott and his childhood friend and roommate Cindy reached the apartment where his sister had left the baby. Once they found a way inside, he found her in a back room, breathing in short, painful breaths. In the dark, he picked the baby girl up in his arms and held her close to his chest. She was only eleven months old, and he could tell that she had cried so long, there were no more tears left in her. Cindy grabbed the soiled blankets from the dirty crib and put her hand on the baby’s back as Scott rocked her back and forth. They brought the baby home with them that night. Scott found that he couldn’t put the baby down, every time he tried, she would gasp and scream, afraid of being left alone again.
“There, there, Bryanne,” he said to her, “It’s okay. I’ll never let you go.”
And he never did.
A few months later Scott took Mikey, too. He tracked Tami down after she’d returned from the botched trip to L.A., and found him outside in a dumpster searching for food while Tami was sitting in a parked van, stoned.
For those of you who still don’t know – my name is Bryanne, and that story is my own. My uncle Scott was nineteen years old when he rescued me from the apartment my mother had abandoned me in. It is