Blue Coat School 14/01/2004
A courageous act doesn't have to be dramatic. It can take courage even to do a small act of kindness...
Sarah remembers the day she heard her mum answer the phone to her neighbour. She was shocked. Mr Garrett, Chloe Garrett's father, was dead. He had killed himself.
Chloe and Sarah had played together every possible day of every summer, for all the 12 summers of their lives. Mr Garrett had built a playhouse for them, he had bought tennis raquets for them and taught them how to play and how to keep score. He was a friendly dad. She was shocked when she realised that she wouldn't see his smile any more.
As soon as she came off the phone Sarah's mum turned to her. "Sarah, get your shoes and coat on, and go up there."
"What could my mum possibly mean?" Sarah thought. Her mum's voice came again. "Go stay with Chloe, and ask Mrs Garrett if there is anything I can do. Tell her we are praying..."
This scared Sarah. But she couldn't think of any way out, so she headed toward the Garretts' house. She doesn't remember walking up the street. She only remembers arriving, seeing the white police car parked outside and walking up the dark green steps to Chloe's front door, hitting the doorbell twice before it actually rang, remembering her stomach churning like a washing-machine as she stood there thinking, What will I say to Chloe? Why am I here, anyway? What am I supposed to do?, hoping no-one would answer, hoping she could turn and run away.
As the door opened it wasn't Chloe who answered, but Mrs Garrett. Sarah saw that her eyes were wild and red, and her face had lines on it she had never seen before.
"Sarah!" she cried, and she grabbed her and held her fast. Sarah realised that Mrs Garrett wasn't much bigger than she was. She let her surround her with her shaking arms, until her crying finally calmed down. Mrs Garrett had held onto Sarah for what seemed a long time.
Sarah didn't know what to say or do next, but she knew this woman's life was broken apart. Sarah was only twelve years old, but she was someone to hold onto.
During the long months that followed, Sarah spent a lot of time with Chloe and Mrs Garrett. She learned not to be frightened of Mrs Garrett's tears. She remembered to have tissues on the floor next to every board game she and Chloe played, and she knew that if her dad walked into the room Chloe would cry harder.
More than a year later, Sarah explained to the librarian why Chloe had walked out in tears, leaving her application for a new library card unfinished at the section that said "Father's Occupation."
Knowing how to be with a family in pain never became easy for Sarah. But from those first moments in Mrs Garrett's arms she learned that her awkwardness didn't matter. She had courage enough to be there, and that's what counted.
Adapted from Anne McCoole Rigby, Someone to Hold Onto, in Chicken Soup for the Kid's Soul.