Name: Zachary Tidwell
From: Bedford, Texas
To See a Man Smile
To see a man, smile at the end of his life, is equivalent to seeing a baby smile for the first time. Throughout my life, I have always tried to do good for others, but one particular incident shaped my character as a young man, without question. The defining moment was I made a man, named Nate, smile.
Nate was an 81-year-old man, living with terminal cancer in a retirement home. He had family, but somehow, they forgot about him. I was introduced to him through mutual friends. At the beginning of our friendship, I would pick him up and take him out to do activities he enjoyed prior to being “sick” and “stuck” in a nursing home. We frequented the gym he served as a younger man, I ate dinner with him as a member of my family, and took him to places he missed. It was the small stuff that meant the world to him.
One day Nate told me that before he was forced to live in the retirement home, he would gift donated toys from a local gym to “crappy apartments” around Christmas time and pass them out to the kids. After many heart to heart talks, we had a date set to deliver toys – December 23, 2019.
I shall never forget that day as long as I shall live. A car full of toys for all ages, all genders – from playdough to a bike, but we had no set delivery. After a decant car ride, we found an apartment with kids, but they had nothing. We knew this was our place to give. We parked the car and started going door to door asking if there were kids in the home. Soon, we had families lined up for toys – people smiling, some crying, but none walking away empty handed.
We made sure every kid got at least two toys of his or her liking. Once we finished at the apartment, we backed up the car to leave but not before seeing all the kids outside playing with their new toys. The look on the kids’ faces was pure joy in the rawest form, but Nate’s was something a little more magical. His face almost looked like a proud father playing catch with his son for the first time.
His smile made me think repeatedly why did someone with so little time want to give to complete strangers? After hours in self-reflection and deep thinking, I finally realized why he smiled like that. It taught me something. His smile taught me that in life, no matter what the circumstances, even if you have little time left, that giving changes a man from the inside out.
Nate passed away January 11, 2020. His smile from that day will be forever in my heart. The act of giving will be in my actions daily as I have become a different man by him allowing me to participate in his Christmas miracle to people who will forever be anonymous.