When Mrs. Brighton decided to help two adorable kids find their way back home, she didn’t know that it would lead her to revisit a beautiful chapter of her own past.
Mrs. Brighton was up bright and early, sitting on the blue bench outside the neighborhood grocery store.
You could tell she belonged to a different era with her giant sunglasses and silk scarf, a cane that doubled up as an umbrella, and bellbottoms hugging her legs, revealing the pair of nude socks around her ankles.
She seemed like she had no worry in the world as she sat cross-legged on the bench, holding up an opened newspaper to shield her from the sun. But the way she checked her watch every two minutes hinted at something bothering her.
“Shouldn’t the store have been open 10 minutes ago?” Mrs. Brighton mused. “Ah, who am I kidding? This is the same sleepy town I grew up in. Why would it suddenly have changed in the last four years?”
Mrs. Brighton folded up the newspaper and saw two little kids standing in front of her, holding hands and trying hard to read the store’s signboard.
Kindness is the best way to make your place in people’s hearts.
“I told you we missed a turn, Tom! Now we’re lost…” the little girl stomped her foot, arguing with her twin brother. The tip of her button nose had become red with anger. “How adorable!” Mrs. Brighton thought to herself and smiled.
“Oh, come on, Millie. We’re not lost. We just…don’t know where we are right now. Come on, let’s walk a few more steps.”
The fierce little girl swatted away her brother’s hand and sat down on the curb in protest. When she started sobbing, Mrs. Brighton was curious to see how the brother would react next.
She watched the boy struggle to read the signboard once again, and then with a disheartened look on his innocent face, he sat down next to his sister and cried with her. “Dear God…what’s happened?” Mrs. Brighton’s heart sank, and she decided to approach the kids.
“Good morning, you two! What’s the matter? Why so gloomy on a perfectly sunny day?”
The kids glanced at each other and hesitated to respond to the older woman.
“You are lost, aren’t you?”
Millie was surprised that the woman knew the truth. She nodded enthusiastically.
“Well, what are you two doing out on the street by yourself, anyway? Shouldn’t you be home watching cartoons?”
“We should, but we had to step out. For our dad…” Tom teared up again as he tried to explain.
Tom and Millie’s father was ill and bedridden for a month. Their dad was everything to them – but after his sudden illness, he lost his job. The man had saved the last of his money that month to buy groceries for the coming week. But seeing his health worsen, the kids decided to take the money and sneak into a drugstore in the hope of finding some medicine for the ailing man instead.
“We have no one else, just our dad. We thought we remembered the way to the drugstore. We pass by it every day. But now…we’re lost. And we don’t know our way back home. It’s all my fault!” Tom buried his face in his palms and wept. Millie’s anger had melted, and she held her brother, soothing him with kisses on the cheek.
“It’s not your fault. I’m not mad at you. I’m just really…”
Millie stopped mid-sentence as the grocery store owner cycled to a stop with a fresh batch of cinnamon rolls in his basket.
“…hungry?” Mrs. Brighton inferred from the way the little girl’s eyes longingly followed the box of cinnamon rolls into the store.
Undisturbed by the lack of response from the children, Mrs. Brighton continued, “Here’s what we’ll do. I’ll tell you my name and anything you want to know about me. Then you can trust me and tell me your street and house number. I’ll drive you home, take a look at your dad, and then bring him the medicine he needs.”
Millie and Tom looked at each other briefly again and agreed.
“Great! My name is Mrs. Brighton. Now go on, ask me anything.”
The six-year-old twins thought sincerely for a few seconds before Millie blurted out, “What’s your favorite color, Mrs. Brighton?”
“That’s easy. Red!” the older woman smiled at the children’s innocence.
The kids were ready to trust their new older acquaintance, but what she did next won their hearts.
“How about we grab a few cinnamon rolls first? I think you must be really hungry. I know I am!”
Mrs. Brighton waited as the children took their sweet time to relish every single bite of the cinnamon rolls. She rolled her eyes at the store owner for being late, grabbed a few extra rolls for the kids’ dad she was about to meet, and drove to their street and house number as they directed her.
It was a lovely little house, and Mrs. Brighton’s two hosts were even lovelier. They helped her take off her coat and find a place for her umbrella and purse.
Looking around, she was fascinated by one wall, in particular, that was full of beautiful photos. They were all snaps of the twins with their father, but as she leaned in, she saw something that took her breath away.
In the collage of pictures on the wall, Mrs. Brighton spotted a strikingly familiar photograph – it was of herself.
“How can this be? Why would a stranger have my photo in his house? This doesn’t make sense…”
Mrs. Brighton wondered as she lifted the photo frame and studied the picture.
And in the flash of a second, it suddenly all came back to her.
“Tom, Millie, where’s your father? I need to see him.”
“Michael? Open your eyes. You won’t believe who I am!” Mrs. Brighton smiled excitedly at the familiar face.
Michael gently opened his tired eyes, and as soon as he got a good look at the woman’s face, his face creased into a smile. “Mrs. Brighton? Oh my goodness, what a lovely surprise!”
Michael couldn’t believe he was in the presence of the kindest woman he knew yet again. He sat up in bed, held her hand, and the memories from five years ago came rushing back…
Michael had just moved into the neighborhood back, and it was supposed to mark the beginning of the scariest phase of his life.
He was 27 and torn between the blessing of his newborn twins on the one hand and the devastating loss of his wife who died after birthing their children on the other.
He wasn’t willing or prepared to raise children on his own and found himself scrambling, failing, and hating himself for not knowing how to handle the most basic tasks of caring for his babies.
In the neighborhood, many had raised their eyebrows and showed expressions of pity, but only one woman had knocked on his door, offering to help.
“Hello, son. I live next door to you, and I noticed you trying to put your crying babies to sleep the other day. I just came to tell you that you are doing great. It’s only going to get louder from here on, and there’s a lot to learn, but you’ll get there. Most importantly, you don’t have to do this alone. I’m a nurse at the local hospital, and I’ll gladly help you learn the ropes of this whole…parenting thing. Anything you need.”
From there began a friendship to which Michael owed everything. For the whole year that followed, Mrs. Brighton taught him everything he needed to know, right from changing diapers, and making baby formula, to massaging the babies when they didn’t seem to stop crying.
Mrs. Brighton also babysat the twins on weekends, allowing Michael to pick up side jobs and work on his business ideas.
“And then, one day, you were gone. Just like that…” Michael said, coming back to the present and wiping a tear off his cheek.
“I’m sorry, son. I had to. My only daughter had called me one night and told me that she was ill and deeply depressed. Out of nowhere, she said she wanted to see me and be with me.”
“So when she called me over to her home on the other side of the country, I jumped on the next flight. And for her, it made all the difference.”
“I gave her the last four years of my life, helping her heal from her loneliness, reviving her health and her self-worth. And a week ago, she tied the knot with a wonderful man she met. Soon after I walked my baby down the aisle, I knew I wanted to return to my old neighborhood.”
Michael listened intently, imagining the kindness with which Mrs. Brighton would have rescued her daughter. “Just like it rescued me,” he thought as he teared up again and noticed Millie and Tom getting emotional, too.
“So, here I am, your neighbor once again! I found my way right back to you, thanks to these delightful little things,” Mrs. Brighton hugged the kids.
“And now I know I’m here at the right time!” the elderly woman said with a sense of purpose in her voice. “Come on, Michael. Tell me what’s going on with you. Whatever it is, we’ll get you all better, son.”
Michael couldn’t remember the last time someone had asked him how he was doing. And yet, sitting in the calming, uplifting company of Mrs. Brighton, he had never felt better.
Over the months that followed, Mrs. Brighton helped Michael recover from the back injury that had cost him his job. In turn, Michael lived up to being called “son” by providing for all of Mrs. Brighton’s needs. However, her greatest reward was seeing Millie and Tom turn up to spend hours with her every day.
What can we learn from this story?
- Kindness is the best way to make your place in people’s hearts. Mrs. Brighton offered to help Michael through his toughest days, and she found a place in the hearts and the home of him and the children.
- Check on a new parent you know. They’ll appreciate it. Parenting comes with endless challenges, and sometimes, it helps just to hear a kind, empathetic voice.