“Like apples of gold in settings of silver Is a word spoken in right circumstances.” – Proverbs 25:11

There is a young man who lives in my apartment complex. I don’t know his name. He can’t be more than 9 years old.  I don’t know his parents beyond the occasional good morning and the things I have picked up from being an observant neighbour. I know they are Muslim because his gorgeous mum wears a hijab. I also know she has gorgeous long flowing black hair because I have glimpsed it once or twice as she headed out to the gym. His dad looks like a certified member of Fit-fam. He sports a mean bicep and every time I see him, he is in workout gear.

Above and beyond all this, I learnt something else from a deceptively mundane encounter with their little boy… that they must be amazing parents. Now, how did I learn this?

Some time after my 2nd surgery on my foot last year, I was battling psychologically and physically. The pain was a bit much but the reality of being almost entirely dependant on other people was killing me. I was frustrated with my body and I felt extremely unattractive. I had no time or energy for make up and I really only wore one dress because it was the only one that was easy to wear and would keep me decent while I awkwardly navigated around. The boyfriend dubbed it my “hospital dress.” In short I felt ugly.

On that particular day, my frustration was at an all time high. Necessity had dictated that I leave the house. With one leg and two crutches, I was exhausted. I insisted on getting myself from the car to the house… about 25 stairs after crossing the parking lot. Sometimes pride doesn’t go before a fall. Sometimes it goes before a lot of pain. My arms were burning with the exertion, my hands blistered, my pride bruised and most of all… I felt ugly. Sweaty and ugly.

As I struggled up the stairs, the young man happened to sitting at the top watching me quietly. I couldn’t work out what he was thinking. I wondered if he could see that I was about to burst into tears. As I got to the last 5 stairs he stood up to make room for me even though he didn’t need to. He continued to watch me. Imagining myself through his eyes, I was starting to feel very sorry for myself.

When I made it to the to the top, I stopped to catch my breath for the last few steps into my apartment. Picture me. Exhausted. Breathing hard. Face shiny like a Vaseline commercial. In pain. Hospital dress. Leaning very heavily on my crutches. Telling myself it’s just 5 more steps… a miserable picture.

Then he spoke… “Excuse maam.” I was startled. “Yes,” I replied. Looking me straight in the eye, he said, “I just wanted to tell you that you are very beautiful.” He didn’t laugh or smile. He just said it. Almost like it was just a fact.

Before I could even say thank you he was gone: walking briskly towards his friends. I did cry a little, not because I was sad, but because a little boy told me that despite everything, I was still beautiful. Because a boy of 9 taught me something powerful about a word in time.

Have you smiled at your neighbour today?