I just finished watching the only TV program I watch on a regular basis – CBS Sunday Morning. I appreciate their consistent cavalcade of positive, meaningful stories. Today’s program was no exception. One of the stories today highlighted the life stories of a living legend, Sidney Poitier http://tinyurl.com/bp9qnje .
An integral part of his story, one I had never heard before, was shared. It caused me to reflect afterward, “What impact can I have on the life of another person?” Born as the youngest of a large and poor Bahamian family, he moved to New York at age 17 to become an actor. Washing dishes at a restaurant to survive, the young Poitier was approached by an elderly Jewish waiter, a fellow employee. The following is from the CBS Sunday Morning account:
“There was one of the waiters, a Jewish guy, elderly man, and he looked over at me and was looking at me for quite awhile. I had a newspaper, it was called Journal American. And he walked over to me, and he said, ‘What’s new in the paper?’ And I looked up at this man. I said to him, ‘I can’t tell you what’s in the paper, because I can’t read very well.’ He said, ‘Let me ask you something, would you like me to read with you?’ I said to him, ‘Yes, if you like.’
“Now let me tell you something: That man, every night, the place is closed, everyone’s gone, and he sat there with me week after week after week. And he told me about punctuations. He told me where dots were and what the dots mean here between these two words, all of that stuff.”
“He took you through high school,” said (Leslie) Stahl.
“Yes, he did. And it wasn’t for long. I learned a lot. And then things began to happen.”
I’m sure this elderly Jewish man, at the time, had no idea the gift he was giving to the world as he offered to help the young man that day. He had no idea that Sidney Poitier’s future would inspire thousands to reach for what was previously out of reach. I believe he did this unselfish act of kindness, teaching a kid to read, because it felt like the right thing to do. I’d even guess it came as a knee-jerk reaction.
So I ask myself, “What impact, then, can I have on the life of another person? What simple act of kindness can I do to change the life of another person?” I believe the answer will appear in my everyday life, perhaps even today. And when the opportunity comes to give, I shouldn’t even think about it. I should just do it…like an elderly Jewish waiter in New York did for a dishwasher who couldn’t tell him “…what’s new in the paper.”