This past weekend I had the privilege of volunteering at the Austin Junior League’s Coats for Kids drive, which is an annual event designed to get warm coats to kids in need of them whose families can’t necessarily afford to buy them. Traditionally, we don’t have a lot of cold weather here in Central Texas, but for the 6 weeks or so that we do, we really do! We are all about weather extremes in our neck of the woods!
For years JB Goodwin Realtors (where I happily work) has been a big participant in this charity event, donating coats, time, and money. And although I’ve donated coats in the past, this was the first year that I’ve also been part of the on-site crew helping families “shop” for coats.
It was a rewarding experience, as you might imagine. It can be a lot of work: the coats are for ages 0 – 18, so there is an endless variety of sizes and styles to sort through. But everybody is grateful: the parents are thrilled and the kids are so excited to be getting a new coat. And it’s wonderful for the volunteers too. It is honestly humbling to be part of an event where you can really connect with people, even for a short time. I’ve been very blessed; it was a great feeling to be able to give back to those in the community less fortunate, as cliché as that might sound.
Of all the lovely, human moments throughout the day there was one in particular that stood out for me. I had a Muslim family I was paired with to help search the racks for coats for their three boys. The boys — aged 10, 11 and 13 — were very friendly and polite, but the oldest boy, Muhammad by name, I was especially taken with. His manner was quite sweet, and he was outgoing and chatty. He found a coat he liked in short order, then turned his attention to his brothers. He was great with the two younger boys, offering fashion advice as well prompting them to search for sizes they wouldn’t grow out of too soon. He was very mature for his age (though he did at one point put the middle brother in a playful headlock when the boy suggested he had stinky armpits, demonstrating he still also knew how to just be a 13-year old boy).
While the boys were trying on various coats, their mother happened to see a very nice long coat that looked to be her size. She just sort of idly tried it on and it actually fit her beautifully. She seemed almost surprised by how nice it looked on her. She asked me if there was any way she could get the coat for herself and I unfortunately had to tell her no, as we could only give them the 3 coats they were allotted. She was gracious and said of course she understood, but I couldn’t help but see that she was a bit disappointed.
Muhammad noticed as well. So when he thought his mother was out of earshot he came up to me and asked if he could give back his coat so that she could keep the one she had tried on. Before I could even answer — I was honestly gobsmacked for a moment — his mother, employing her preternaturally keen mom ears, immediately rushed over and said, “No, baby. I won’t let you do that. But thank you.” In that moment her look said everything about how touched she was, and how proud of her boy.
Like his mother, I was also touched by the kind and selfless gesture of this young man. It was a small thing, I guess, but also huge. And for me it was a lovely reminder that kindness is not lost, and that the desire to give back and to make someone else’s day a little brighter (or a little warmer, in this case) isn’t just limited to those with the apparent means to do so.