I thought when I returned home that this chapter of Vigilante Kindness would come to an end until I return to Uganda next summer.
Boy was I wrong.
It started with an early morning message from my friend, Kristine, an educator in Uganda. It was the wee hours of the morning here and approaching afternoon there.
Kristine was struggling to help one of her students keep his younger siblings fed and in school. Kristine had paid his tuition and arranged for food for the family. But they were struggling to pay the school fees for seven of his siblings in school. Kristine listed the name of each sibling, the name of each school and the remaining balances.
All told, $120.00 was needed to pay the fees. It was a check I could have easily cut, but when I woke up later that morning, I was compelled to share the need with my friends and family. With a quick post on Facebook, I was off for the day. About thirty seconds after I posted it, my friends stepped up on behalf of this young man and his siblings.
Within a day I had more than enough to cover the fees. It came from friends who shoved checks into my hand while I did bus duty after school. It came from the lean pocketbooks of fellow teachers. It came and it didn’t stop.
Two gifts in particular struck me, both from former librarians. The first came with an apology.
“I’m sorry it’s not more,” said my friend placing three dollars in my hand.
“Every little bit helps. Three dollars goes a long way in Uganda,” I assured her.
She gave her three dollars gladly and I thought about the widow’s mite. I thought about how haughty I am and how I always feel like my donations have to be substantial to matter. It’s such bologna, this lie that we have to give a sizable amount or not at all. I tucked her three dollars into my purse, grateful for each one and for the lesson they taught me.
The second gift was from another former librarian at my school. She’s moved on to being the librarian at a local high school, but when she was the librarian at my school I loved when she read to my class, particularly when she read interesting versions of fairy tales. The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig and so on and so forth. The more unusual the fairy tale, the more I loved it.
“It was my birthday a month ago,” the librarian told me in my living room.
“Thank you. My son gave me $100 for my birthday and I’ve looked and looked for something special to spend it on. I thought about buying a piece of jewelry, but couldn’t find one that was right. Then I saw a vase at school sculpted by a fellow teacher. It was beautiful. I asked him if it was for sale and if I could buy it. He gave it to me instead. So again I was left with nothing to spend my birthday money on until I saw your post and I knew that’s what I should spend it on.”
“Thank you so much,” she and I both fought back tears. I couldn’t believe she would give her birthday money to help a family she’d never even met in a place she’d never been. Would I be so generous? I already knew the ugly answer.
I wired the money over to Kristine, each wrinkled dollar, each scrawled check, each cent from a birthday wish reaching around the world. Just before I wired the money, I looked over the names of the children again, double and triple checking the amounts to make sure it was enough. It was. And then some.
I don’t know how I missed it, but the second time I looked at the names, one of them reached out and grabbed me. I couldn’t help but smile when I realized that because of the Vigilante Kindness of my friends, twelve-year-old Anena Cinderella would get to finish fifth grade halfway across the world.
I shook my head in disbelief that once again I got to play a small part in what can only call the sweetest of all Cinderella stories.