Friends are angels with the power to lift us up

Published 5:15 pm Tuesday, April 25, 2023

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Of the hundreds of emails I receive each and every week, there are, on rare occasions, one that begs to be shared. Such is the case of one I received last week from Chip Burby.

This tale began making its rounds on the Internet over 20 years ago. According to, it is a rewritten, first-person version of “A Simple Gesture,” an inspirational tale penned by John W. Schlatter and published in the 1993 bestseller “Chicken Soup for the Soul.”

In the original version, the two boys are called “Mark” and “Bill,” and the tale is related in the third person, not as something that happened to the author (as the online variant presents it).

No matter if it’s the original or a rewrite, the message remains powerful. Our friends are angels who have the power to lift us up when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly.

What follows is the rewritten tale that was shared with me. I hope it touches your heart as it did mine:

One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class was walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books. I thought to myself, ‘Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd.’

I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friends tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on.

As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him. He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes.

My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over as he crawled around looking for his glasses. I saw a tear in his eye.

As I handed him his glasses, I said, ‘Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives.’

He looked at me and said, ‘Hey thanks!’

There was a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude.

I helped him pick up his books and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to private school before now.

I would have never hung out with a private school kid before.

We talked all the way home, and I carried some of his books.

He turned out to be a pretty cool kid.

I asked him if he wanted to play a little football with my friends. He said yes.

We hung out all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him, and my friends thought the same of him.

Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again. I stopped him and said, ‘Boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!’

He just laughed and handed me half the books.

Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends.

When we were seniors we began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown and I was going to Duke. He was going to be a doctor and I was going for business on a football scholarship.

I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem.

Kyle was valedictorian of our class. I teased him all the time about being a nerd.

He had to prepare a speech for graduation. I was so glad it wasn’t me having to get up there and speak.

On graduation day, I saw Kyle. He looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than I had and all the girls loved him. Boy, sometimes I was jealous! Today was one of those days.

I could see that he was nervous about his speech, so, I smacked him on the back and said, ‘Hey, big guy, you’ll be great!’

He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled. ‘Thanks,’ he said.

As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began.

‘Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach…but mostly your friends. I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them.

I am going to tell you a story.’

I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the first day we met. He had planned to kill himself over the weekend. He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his mom wouldn’t have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home.

He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile.

‘Thankfully, I was saved,’ he said. ‘My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable.’

I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment. I saw his mom and dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile. Not until that moment did I realize its depth.

Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture you can change a person’s life…for better or for worse.

God puts us all in each others lives to impact one another in some way. Look for God in others.

Thanks to my friend, Chip Burby, for sharing this tale. It reminds me of one of my favorite songs, “You’ve Got a Friend” written by Carole King in 1971. The first verse goes like this: “When you’re down and troubled and you need some lovin’ care, and nothin’, nothin’ is goin’ right. Close your eyes and think of me and soon I will be there to brighten up even your darkest night.”

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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