Charley’s World Episode Two

At Charley’s door was a young African American girl about the age of his daughter when she died. He was immediately alarmed. While the local workforce was very integrated, housing was not. The young girl probably didn’t live anywhere near Charley’s home.

Charley got the girl’s name and her mother’s phone number. Her mother was shocked to hear what her daughter, Natasha, had done. “Could you keep her there until I get off work?” she asked. Charley agreed.

Not knowing how to entertain a young girl, Charley asked, “Natasha would you like to play with some toys?”

“I’d love to,” she replied, “but my name is Natty. That’s what people call me.”

Charley took Natty to his daughter’s room. He had never felt right to clean it out. Natty immediately began to play. It was obvious that she would be fine so Charley just watched her. As he stood there, Charley had a mix of emotions. He loved seeing Natty’s joy, but it also brought back a lot of painful memories.

Then Natty picked up one of his daughter’s books and asked if Charley would read to her. Charley sat down on the floor beside her and said, “I’ll read a page to you if you’ll read a page to me.”

When Charley finished his page, Natty started reading but it quickly became clear that Natty struggled with reading. His daughter would have zoomed through the book, but Natty was struggling. Charley did his best to help her sound out the words, and she did seem to make some progress.

They had just finished the book when the doorbell rang. It was Natty’s mother. Natty was still playing so Charley and Nellie had some time to talk. Charley learned that Nellie was a single mom who was struggling to take care of Natty. “I haven’t been a very good mom”, she said. “When I get home at night, I don’t have much energy to help Natty with her school work. I know she’s struggling.”

It was clear that Nellie needed help, and for Charley this was the best afternoon he had since his daughter was killed in the car crash. Maybe the three of them could help each other.

As Nellie saw her daughter happily playing, tears formed in her eyes. She turned to Charley and hugged him. “Thanks for being here for Natty. I can’t imagine the harm she might have gotten into without you being so kind.”

As Natty and Nellie said their good-byes, Charley handed Natty a new book to take home. “Read to your mom before you go to sleep tonight, ok?” Charley said. He didn’t need to hear her answer, but he saw it on her face.

That night at 9:30, Charley got a phone call that he would never forget.

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“You cannot do kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson