AWAI Writing Challenge Honorable Mention:
A Simple Gift to a Stranger

The greatest gift I ever gave wasn’t a Christmas gift or a birthday present. Wasn’t for a wedding or graduation or any of the events for which we traditionally give gifts. There was no compelling reason to buy it or even to give it.

I was working on the locks in a hospital in N.J. and received a problem report for a room near the Critical Care Unit. The nurse took me to an isolation room in which the patient was an Hispanic woman in her sixties. She seemed very tired and I could see that her lunch tray had hardly been touched.

As I worked on the lock, I asked her if she wouldn’t love to have a plate of good Spanish food instead of that hospital stuff. She laughed, rolled her eyes and said she wished the nurses would let her eat something nice for a change. We chatted while I worked and I noticed that the room was completely bare … No cards, flowers, or anything. It didn’t seem like she received many visitors.

I finished, wished her luck, and left for another job. As I rode down on the elevator, I couldn’t get her and that blank, empty room out of my mind. Money was tight for me then, but I walked into the gift shop and picked out a small flower arrangement and went back upstairs.

I walked back into her room and placed the flowers on her night stand. “I noticed you didn’t have any flowers and thought these might brighten your day.” She smiled the most angelic smile I’d ever seen as she thanked me for the flowers. As I left the room, I turned back and looked through the window as she touched the petals and smiled again.

I didn’t know her. She didn’t know me. And I would never see her again, but, for a moment, I knew that I’d touched a life.

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Published: January 7, 2010

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