For a time, the future looked rather bleak for Patience Menakaya . . .
She hadn't been in the United States for long and had nowhere to turn. Young and vulnerable, Patience - a recent immigrant from Nigeria - had just discovered that she was pregnant. Unable to keep up her classes at Dallas Baptist University, her student visa was in serious jeopardy. Her husband in their homeland and unable to join her, Patience could not have felt more alone.
Kindness came to her rescue, Lolamay Daughtery - the wife of the pastor at the Texas church that Patience attended - insisting that she came and lived with her and her husband. In doing so, the Daughterys gave Patience more than a home, they gave her hope. Such benevolence has never been forgotten.
With Lolamay at her side, Patience gave birth to a beautiful girl. She called her Chidinma. The Daughterys bought supplies for the baby, and taught Patience how to care for her. Patience and Chidinma stayed for several months before moving on, grateful for all that had been done for them but keen to find their own path. The two families soon lost touch. That was almost three decades ago.
Earlier this month, Patience and Lolamay met for the first time in 27 years. Having asked Chidinma to help her track down Lolamay, Patience traveled to Fort Worth, from her home in Maryland, to say thank-you. It proved to be a remarkable reunion.
You see, accompanying Patience was Chidinma, who was just a baby when Lolamay last saw her, and her five other children, all of them grown up and all of them successful. The Menakayas are quite a family, believe us. But without Lolamay's simple act of kindness, all those years ago, we suspect that their story would have had a much different ending.
'I feel like what happened, [and] how she helped my mom, helped me [to] become who I am,' says Chidinma. It is quite a thing to do . . .
We might not think about it at the time, but all our actions have an impact on other people. Perhaps not today, maybe not tomorrow, but at some point, the things that we do (or the things that we don't) change the lives of those around us, for better or for worse.
Patience, her emotion obvious, told Lolamay that her kindness had changed her life and it is impossible to argue otherwise.
'I think that's what we're here for on Earth, to help each other,' says Lolamay, who has passed on her penchant for helping others to all the Menakayas. 'It does more for me to help someone than it does for the person I'm helping, I think'.
It's true that kindness can be rewarding and, when Lolamay considers what she and her late husband did in opening their doors (not to mention their hearts) to Patience, she should be so proud.
You see, in that one compassionate deed, she has had an influence on innumerable lives. Not just Patience's, or those of her six cherished children. But of their families too, and the families still to come, not to mention all their friends, colleagues and everyone fortunate enough to come into contact with them. The Menakayas understand what it is to give, because someone gave to them first. That chain reaction is something for us all to consider.
Here at OM®, we have a certain saying, that we are all connected. When we hear a story like this - and when we think about the spiderweb of strands, each a life intrinsically linked to that one act of kindness - we know that what we say is true.
Here's to Lolamay, here's to the Menakaya family, and here's to helping each other out . . .