Told in the first-person point of view, this personal narrative captures a young narrative’s internal conflict of finding ways to display kindness in her life. Having learned how magnificent kindness is, eight-year-old May finds herself seeking to help others around her but only comes to notice that she is needless by her family or community.
The summer of third grade showed me that girl, I really am a kind person. So if my parents still believe I have nothing achieved in my life so far, at least I can tell them that I have mastered kindness. I have solid proof, too! The old lady told me, trust me, she told me eye-to-eye and face-to-face.
As I said, I was last asked by a teacher what was the kindest thing I have ever done for someone in third grade. With one of those yellow pencils only found in cartoons firmly held in my right hand, I scribbled some supposedly acceptable response in my lined notecard. I didn’t think out the sentences thoroughly before I jotted it down, it was pretty messy, but it didn’t matter. I picked a fairly random moment in my life that wasn’t exactly noteworthy. I have answered this question several times before in school— from all the international schools I’ve attended, including this Hong Kong one, I have arrived at a conclusion that schools really do adore these values. A laminated copy of the Golden Rule in big bubble letters was taped right in the middle of our door. I read it several times, even memorized it, but I just never truly felt that moment of joy my teacher kept on describing to us from doing something nice. Perhaps it’s just because my actions weren’t kind at all. Drifting into thoughts, I devised a series of stratagem that would show-off my kindness. It would possibly lead to one of my classmates yelping for help, and right there, I would appear and come to the rescue like Xi Yangyang saving the village. Perfect. I was eight then, I am fifteen now. Looking back, I sure was an evil mastermind. What could have ever stopped me?
I didn’t really follow my plan in the end. I’m glad at least I had some common sense built in my brain; it would have been too pyrrhic anyways with all my effort and all. The day passed on and the Hong Kong weather was a sticky, steamy one. While walking from the bus stop home, I searched with eager eyes. But luck didn’t knock on my door. There was no coincidence of me finding an old lady who needed to cross the streets, no neighbor kids who needed a hand after falling off their bikes, or anything needed by my mom or dad or brother or sister when I called “I’m home”! This densely populated city was so self-sustained, so independent that I felt unnecessary. The skyscrapers stood tall— apartments, shopping centers, and business buildings. How am I supposed to help anyone if no one wants help? It wasn’t an assigned task to display a random act of kindness or anything, but it frustrated me to realize that Earth could peacefully orbit around the sun like any other day even without my helping.
Summer break rolled in and yet nothing seemed to come in my way. I packed all my slim textbooks and studies in my green Barbie backpack (yes, it was green and, yes, it was Barbie) and zipped them all up. That way, they could hibernate undisturbed and, in turn, leave me undisturbed, too.
My mom insisted on going on a bus instead of driving our car because it was the weekends and she predicted the chances of having an empty parking space would be as likely as finding a bone in an egg. My mom had a point, you see, my mom always has a point. And no one, ever, has argued against her, my dad didn’t either, so who were the kids to complain. To be honest, bus rides are pretty fun, they look nothing like school buses but rather like small metro compartments on wheels. The way the insides are designed always stirs up my curiosity, too. Why are there so little seats along the two sides? Why are they mostly scattered in the back? What if someone is too short to reach the handle or— the bus abruptly stopped in front of the next station. The sound of the door and pressure pushing and opening fascinated me as I stared and swung my green Converses back and forth.
A walking cane thumped, and an old lady, a westerner she was, set a foot in. She pushed hard on her cane and dragged her other foot in. I noticed that the bus driver waited longer than the previous station before shutting the door. I quickly adjusted myself in my seat and pulled my GAP hoodie sleeves down because the old lady walked right before the seat beside mine. The bus we took surprisingly did not have too many people. Other than my seat and my sister’s seats were taken, the rest stood. The old lady, however, did not sit. She grabbed onto a handle with her free hand and stood, a stiff and bent figure, along with the other adults. She had a head of short silvery curls. She also had on a black earpiece. I recognized it as a hearing aid because my grandma also has one. With her cane-hand, she fumbled with the pair of glasses that sat on her nose. I watched intently, unsure what to do. There were vines tugging my heart making me uneasy with every passing nanosecond. Just as the bus began to move and the view outside the window became a blur, the inertia overcame and— PAH! — her cane dropped and laid flatly in the middle of the bus.
A chaotic commotion overwhelmed me. I was already sitting on the edge of my seat, twitchy and impatient. Without a second of hesitation, before she could even bend down her knees before anyone moved, I burst up and dashed down, feeling my ponytail dangle behind my head, and picked up the cane.
“Hi, here!” I nearly shouted for her to hear me through her muffled ears.
Her wary eyes followed me as I stood up from the floor, and smiled something genuine, “Thank you, young lady. You are a very good young lady. Thank you so much.” She gave me a nod and took the cane’s handle. I bounced back in my seat immediately, feeling a bit lightheaded and wobbly. The nervous energy was electricity in my body and my hands could not stop trembling. I was an electron bouncing and flying under my skin. Wow, that was scary. It was kind of cool though, I kind of liked what I did there. Did the other people see what I did there?
My family gets off just the next station and before I walked down, I tapped the old lady’s purple jacket. She was a tall woman, I was only at the height of her chest. I pointed to my seat as an invitation, “Please.”
“Thank you. You are very kind, young lady.” She smiled again. The door squeezed shut behind me and when I turned around, the bus drove on. I followed the bus until my eyes couldn’t see and, through the windows, I saw her in my seat.
That day in class, Mrs. Woodhead sparked this spread-the-kindness idea in me, and I was determined to carry it on. I think I did it. People are so unpredictable. When you search for them on purpose to offer help, they are not there. When you are not expecting anything, they come knocking on your door. My dad ruffled my black ponytail, complimenting me:
“Good job, May!”
I smiled something genuine to myself and the day passed on with the earth orbiting the sun, peacefully as ever.
Conflict is driven by the character’s naivety— unable to accept how the universe does not revolve around her. This internal conflict is elaborated by the use of the vivid description of the insensible Hong Kong community, it is “so self-sustained [and] so independent”. The “sticky” and “steamy” weather also conveys a slow and boring childhood, foreshadowing the forthcoming climax.
The characterization is a gradual build up. Through the vivid description of “yellow cartoon pencils”, “green Barbie backpack”, “swinging my green Converse back and forth”, a young, curious, and eager girl is created. Then, at the end of this narrative, there is a repetition of the third paragraph. But there is also this binary where at first “I” am annoyed by the idea that Earth could move peacefully but, later on, I am comfortable with that idea, showing the character has matured. The countless alliteration, assonance, and consonance in my word choice also contributes to the character’s childish language because as it resembles nursery rhymes. For example, “scribbled some supposedly acceptable response”. There are also metaphors with the effect to make the characterization more vibrant: “ I was an electron bouncing and flying under my skin.”
The overall plotline is simple. It starts off in the present, continued by a flashback that unfolds the telling of the story chronologically.