There’s nothing more compelling than a small act of generosity.
Danny is my neighbor. He lives only 2 blocks away. Danny is in 5th grade, and his house is right across the street from the elementary school. It’s near impossible for him to play hooky. Like he wants to anyways. Danny is too much of a social butterfly. He knows who everyone is and knows all the familial ties of his peers, i.e. whose cousin is whose. He probably knows too much about his teachers’ lives too. But no one minds it. It’s just Danny being Danny.
Yet, Danny struggles in school. He emigrated from Mexico when he was 6 or 7, without knowing a lick of English. Even after becoming conversational in English these past years, he is still behind: he is currently working on single-digit multiplication facts and reads between a 2nd and 3rd grade level. He’s in Special Education and is taking his “calming pills” for his ADHD.
Danny is the epitome of the education gap in our country. He is an immigrant from a poor family that is barely making it. He started off behind and most likely will always stay behind, be it education, resources, or mobility. He has too few options for extracurriculars after school. He doesn’t exercise enough and his obesity suggests poor nutrition.
But Danny is no ordinary kid. Danny is my hero.
Despite all the disadvantages, Danny has one thing going for him: he’s got a heart of gold. Danny and I work together on Monday nights for tutoring. And trust me, Danny looks out for me more than himself. “Ben, do you want half of this sandwich?” “Ben, do you want to split the goldfish?” “Ben, how much did this gum cost you? Was it too much?” “Ben, I made this ninja star for your Christmas present. Do you like it?”
His kindness is not limited to me, though. He remembers adults’ names after first encounters and always asks how they’re doing or where they’ve been recently. He might be distractible with his fellow classmates during tutoring, but it’s not out of avoidance to do work. It’s because he wants to show that he cares about his friends. Just recently, the director wrote to Danny. She said, “Danny, you are such a grateful kid…”
And grateful he is. One off-week for tutoring, Danny and I decided to go to McDonalds. I bought him a Happy Meal (which is surprisingly more healthy than I remember). And as we were eating, Danny did a Danny thing. He was eating his fries (which was not a large portion) and he offered me some of his. He saw that I had my own stack of fries, but he offered me some nonetheless.
It was powerful. Here’s a kid that has nothing. His house has legitimately no chairs. He knows he’s behind in school. There’s not a consistent dinner every night. He has every right to be cold, angry, and definitely selfish. And instead of hoarding his food, becoming protective over the best-tasting food group for any 5th grader, Danny instead offers me, almost begs me, to have some of his fries.
It’s in these small moments that you see Jesus most clearly. It’s another reminder that when one serves, it’s usually the one serving who receives more. Danny has given me and continues to give me powerful glimpses of Jesus. Danny continues to teach me so much about gratitude. Danny is my hero.
Although I’m still worried about Danny’s future, I know he’s in good hands. He has a gift that is contagious. He understands the world better than most. Even if you have nothing, you always have something to give. Danny reminds me of the poor widow who gave two small copper coins at the temple. After Jesus saw this, he said: “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on” (Luke 21:3-4).