Lindy saw him from across the lunch table, and thought he looked like a Monkey Face.
"Do you eat bananas all day? You look like a baby monkey," said Lindy.
"You look like you have lice in your hair," said Max.
Lindy nearly cried and showed him a little pouch filled with hearts made of felted material.
"Someone made this for me, I bet you don't have a lot of love in your life," sneered Lindy.
"I don't," said Max. He looked at her pouch and replied, "I also don't need sissy little pouches to tell me I'm loved."
"I have a Mom at home, and she makes me these things. Do you have love at all?" Lindy asked.
"I don't care, stop talking to me," said Max. His eyes teared a little and as he kept eating his peanut butter and jelly sandwich. "It's lunch, and you're not my parent."
"If you were a boy with everything, what would you still want?" Lindy asked.
"I said, stop talking to me," said Max, angrily.
Lindy took her pouch and opened it. She took one heart and offered it to Max. "Maybe you're not a Monkey Face after all," said Lindy, showing her palm with the heart.
"You know, I've been called worse things at home," said Max.
"Nothing is worse than Monkey Face," said Lindy.
Max smiled, and took the soft felt cotton heart from Lindy. He placed it inside his pocket and the little heart never grew out of its love.
The world turned upside down for Max, and Lindy was not always around. Still, he held on to the little cotton heart during the trying times.
Max only talked to Lindy in bits and pieces, during lunch, and maybe after school. Most of the time, he was alone, and didn't want to be bothered.
Lindy never called him Monkey Face again, but she frequently asked if he still had the heart.
"Yes," Max nodded.
"One day, we will be best friends," said Lindy, because deep down inside, she knew there was something about Max that she couldn't understand.
"I'm leaving," said Max, near the end of the year.
"Keep the heart, and remember that nothing is worse than being called Monkey Face," said Lindy.
Max didn't say a word.
"I Love you," said Lindy. Max nodded and walked away.
Max moved to another school, but at least, for a point in time, there was love that surrounded Max.
People often don't realize the power of the small gesture of kindness that can grow inside someone's life. Children are often not born with too many options, because they are given what they are given and they must learn from it, in hope that it is an education.
As adults we often don't teach our children how to say I love you to someone who needs it most. We are so guarded and full of judgment and sometimes it is right to do so – however, naturally, children just love. Maybe as adults we can love someone who is without love, although they seem different and silent.
For all of my fellow friends who have been hurt as adults or children. My thoughts are with you.
I love you,
(Inspired by experiences working with low income youths in Los Angeles and Riverside, Southern California).