A Coke and a Smile

Tyler - 01742
Entered on October 30, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

A Coke and a Smile

I believe that kindness manifests itself in the most unlikely places.

I sat in the dusty old green Toyota listening to Christian Rock blast over the radio. The sun split through the clear plastic beads of the Rosetta. The heat hung in the air of the car, mixing with the sent of pine coming from the air freshener. It was just another day of my miserable summer painting job. Every day was long, grueling, and unbelievably hot. Paint was crusted on every piece of clothing I owned, and sawdust was permanently trapped into my nostrils. I waited for Alex to return from inside the gas station. Older than me, Alex was my friend, and working companion and who, over the summer, had taken on a grandfatherly figure for me.

He is a recent immigrant from Brazil, and is a pro class painter. He taught me the fundamentals, and slowly shaped me into a respectable painter. For the first weeks he would send me to paint a section of a house, and then hours later repainted it himself to make it look nice. Always laughing and smiling he speaks beautiful Portuguese; he knows little English. He would joke with me that it was not about the result, but rather the process; a saying that always produced laughter, but still held some principal truths. The language difference was no barrier on the worksite. His days were filled with work; he was trying to raise money to send back to his family. By day he painted houses, and by night be bagged bread in a factory, maybe getting three hours of sleep in between. He barely raised enough money to survive, and any extra funds were sent back to his wife and children in Brazil. Every day, he barely had enough money for a sandwich, drink, and a bag of chips. Yet, he was never late, and never disheartened. The smile that curved underneath his symmetrical gray mustache never left his face. His high spirits gave me the inspiration I needed to be strong and to make it through he long, hot, grueling days.

So I sat in the old green Toyota in the gas station parking lot waiting for Alex to return. The sun beat down on the black top and the heat stifled my breath. My thoughts wandered lazily as I heard the bell of the door jingle. Alex strode out carrying a very American energy drink. He sat down in the car as the seat creaked loudly. He popped open his drink crisply and began to put the car into drive, but then stopped short. He turned to me, and from behind his back he produced an ice cold Cocoa Cola, beads of water still dripping down the side of the can. Gratefully I accepted the drink, unknowing of what to say. He smiled at me, and I smiled back, the action speaking more than any broken Portuguese I could come up with. I believe that kindness expresses itself in the most unlikely places. A man, my mentor, who made barely enough money to survive bought me a soda and gave me the ultimate gift; happiness. It was the smallest gesture, but it meant more to me than any of the expensive and extravagant gifts that I have ever received on Christmas morning, and it came from the most unlikely of places.

I believe that life is full of moments where people will surprise you with small acts of kindness, and that it is important to notice those moments and to savor them.