Slivers of warm light from the sunrise darted through the curtains as the child slept. The bedroom door creaked and she stirred in her slumber. Quietly, the visitor placed the gift on the chair beside the bed, turned and left, softly shutting the door.
When the sunlight reached the 5-year-old’s face, her eyes blinked open and her gaze swept the room, landing on the surprise.
She stared in amazement at the brand-new purple backpack.
“Is it really mine?” she wondered. “Where did it come from?”
She’d started kindergarten a few days before, the only student in her class without a backpack. She carried her meager school supplies in a plastic grocery bag worn on her back, the handles slipped over her shoulders.
The teacher took notice. With instructions not to reveal where it came from, she gave the purple backpack to the child’s parents.
I thought of this little girl’s story as I shopped the back-to-school aisles at Walmart, picking up two backpacks and two armloads of notebooks, folders and other supplies.
“I knew I should have grabbed a cart,” I thought as I rounded a corner and almost bumped into
another shopper, dropping the glue sticks and pencil sharpeners.
I retrieved them from the floor and, after balancing the last couple items from my list on top of the pile, headed for the self-checkout lanes.
“Right over here, mamma,” said a friendly store associate, pointing to the closest available machine. “Someone must be getting ready for back-to-school.”
I smiled back. Did I really want to slow down this busy checkout area to explain I don’t have kids and I’m shopping for kids I never met and don’t know?
About a week before I’d been scrolling through Facebook when I came across a post by the Keystone Mission, a nonprofit with locations in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, asking for donations.
“Help us provide a backpack for a child,” it read. “Fill a new backpack with some or all of the items on the list and drop at our 8 W. Olive St., Scranton or 290 Parkview Circle, Wilkes-Barre location.”
Underneath was the list:
■ Washable markers
■ Colored pencils
■ Glue sticks
■ Pocket tissues
■ 24 count crayons
■ Wide-lined notebooks
■ Hand sanitizer.
The collection runs through July 31 and donations can be dropped off Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. at either mission.
For more information, call 570-871-4795, ext. 1.
Families in need can learn more by visiting the Kids Klothes Line, open every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to noon at the Scranton mission only. During these times, guests can, according to keystonemission.org, “select from infant, toddler and children’s clothing. Items available include shoes, diapers and toys.”
As I carried the backpacks stuffed with school supplies into the Scranton mission, rain poured down from dark clouds. But from my perspective it couldn’t have been a nicer day if sunlight streamed down instead.
Because I was finally able to pay forward a kindergarten teacher’s act of kindness displayed in the form of a brand-new purple backpack given to me almost 25 years ago.