Saturday, June 28, 2008

Draw the Circle Wide

The problem with the world is that we draw the circle of our family too small.

Mother Theresa

I came across this quote today and it got me thinking about a wonderful story I was told the other day. A friend of mine quietly told me of something she’s been doing for the last several months and, despite Mother’s Theresa’s observation of our world, this story is one of widening our circle of family.

My friend and her husband have a favourite restaurant here in Saint John where they go for breakfast on the weekend. Usually they are served by the same personable young woman, Melissa (not her real name). Melissa looks straight into your eyes when she speaks to you, I was told, and she holds your gaze. While this is an engaging habit, it became apparent to my friend that Melissa also held her gaze to ensure that her customers looked at her eyes, too, and not at her mouth.

Melissa is missing two front teeth, has other teeth that are misaligned and cavities that need to be filled. In short, her mouth is in a bad state.

By now my friend knew that Melissa was a single Mom with two teenage daughters. And my friend also knew Melissa would always be relegated to waitressing if her teeth were not fixed. So she told her husband that she would like to offer to pay for Melissa’s dental work. Her husband was supportive so the next time they saw Melissa my friend asked Melissa if she would meet her for coffee the next day as she has something to discuss with her.

Melissa’s first reaction was to ask, “Have I done something wrong?”

When they met the next day and my friend told Melissa that she would like to pay for her to go to the dentist, Melissa burst into tears and fled to the bathroom to compose herself. They talked for a couple of hours over coffee and tears in Tim Horton’s.

“There are no strings attached,” my friend told her. “I was once a single mother, too, and I’d just like to do something to help you.”

Melissa countered that she’d never be able to pay her back and my friend told her that she didn’t expect to be paid back. She told Melissa that she had confidence in her and that she believed that someday Melissa would be in a position to help someone else. “Just pass it on if you can, that’s all I want,” my friend assured her.

My friend told her to go home and think about it and make sure she was comfortable with the proposal.


My friend went with Melissa to her first appointment and introduced her to the dentist. She still continues to go with Melissa when she can. Melissa has now had another couple of teeth pulled, the gaps - and several cavities - filled. She has one more dental appointment left.

The dental work tally has now hit about $2,500. and my friend told me with a conspiratorial grin that her impulse to help must have been right because “I haven’t even missed the money; it just seems like it was a little bit here and a little bit there.”

My friend also tells me that “You should see Melissa now. She not only has a beautiful smile, she has self confidence. She walks with a spring in her step. It is wonderful to see.”

I went to my friend’s home the other day and there was a small statue of an angel on her table and a wonderful letter from Melissa telling her how her life has been changed by this act of kindness.


My friend’s circle of family just got wider. I’m wondering how wide I can make my circle of family. How wide can you make yours?

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