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Words of Encouragement

by Lindsay Birge about a year ago in humanity
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You never know when you might change a life...

Sometimes the smallest gesture really resonates with someone. Years ago I met a person by the name of Nathan. I'll never forget him for as long as I live. He truly changed my life.

I remember early in my nursing career being told that there were some patients you just held on to in your heart. Nathan was one of those for me. Ten years into my career, he came in as just a 15-year-old kid. He'd had a gunshot wound to the abdomen. When I first met him he was drowsily recovering from surgery in his room.

"I'm scared," I heard him mutter quietly, eyes fluttering as he shook his head. His hand was on his abdomen on top of a bandage, freshly placed after surgery.

"It's okay," I said gently taking his other hand in mine. "You're safe here." His eyes opened as he heard my voice.

"Are you an angel?" he asked deliriously.

"No," I softly chuckled, "Just someone here to keep an eye on you." With that his head fell back on his pillow and he was in a sound sleep within seconds.

The rest of my shift was uneventful, vitals here, pain medications there, nothing unusual for a Sunday night. For some reason I stopped by Nathan's room an extra time before leaving. Perhaps it was because he was so young, or perhaps it was because no one had been to visit him, even though he'd been in my ward for the last 12 hours. Either way, I peeked in to find him still snoozing, his chest gently rising and falling.

That night I found myself thinking about this young kid. Where was his family, what were his circumstances? How did a 15-year-old end up in the hospital with a gunshot wound? Unable to sleep I got out of bed and padded down the hallway. From the cabinet I took a wine glass and set it on the cool tiled counter. I reached into the stainless-steel refrigerator and pulled out a crisp bottle of red wine. I poured a cup and stared into space, my fingers tracing the stem of the glass. Tears came to my eyes. How terrible it must be to be so alone at such a young age.

The next morning, I began my shift, powering up on coffee to make up for the sleep I lost the previous night.

"Good morning Anna," Gail, a fellow nurse, greeted.

"Good morning," I replied after a gulp of coffee. "Anything exciting for the day?"

"Well, just that kid Nathan."

"What's up with him?" I asked, my ears perking up. "Did anyone ever come visit him last night?"

"No," she replied solemnly. "He's all alone. Such a respectful young man too. It's just a shame what happened to him. He's quiet too. The only things we've been able to get out of him are 'Yes ma'am' and 'No ma'am'."

I nodded, taking in this information.

"He's on your rounds today, maybe you can get him to talk a little more," Gail noted. I had a few other patients to visit before Nathan, but after finishing the rest of the round, I made my way to his room. I knocked softly on the door before peeking my head in.


"Yes ma'am?" he replied in a quiet voice.

"I'm Anna. Do you remember me from last night?" I inquired.

"A little bit, you look familiar," he stated, sitting up slightly in the bed. A pained gasp escaped his lips, as the heart rate monitor elevated. I hurried to his side.

"Take it easy, kiddo," I cautioned. He let out a small chuckle.

"My dad used to call me that when I was a little kid."

"You're still pretty young," I teased. "Where is your dad? I noticed that you haven't had any visitors."

"He died a few years ago." He told me, looking down at his hands.

"I'm sorry to hear that. Does your mom know where you are?"

"Yes," was all he replied. "She's just really busy is all." I decided not to push the issue, as I didn't want to put an end to his opening up.

"Let's take a look at your bandage," I said, changing the subject.

Over the next few days, I tried my best to be a listening ear. Nathan seemed to start feeling more and more relaxed with me. Nathan opened up about his life a little more, and his little sister Angie. His blue eyes shined when he spoke about her. He told me that they didn't live in the best neighborhood, but he did what he could to take care of her. I began to visit before leaving for the night, his mom still a no show.

"I guess I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time," he supposed. "They don't know who shot me, or why, but they think it may have been random." I worked around him, making sure his lines were untangled and had no air in them. Nathan sat writing in a small black notebook.

"What do you have there," I asked, nodding to the notebook.

"I keep it on me all the time. I write about anything that means something to me. People, places, experiences." He said, his pen scratching at the page as he talked. "Sometimes I like to draw too," he explained, tilting his head to the side to get a different perspective of what bloomed on his page.

"What's that you're drawing."

"It's you," he blushed, tilting the book so that I could get a better look. Radiant streams of light surrounded my face. The drawing was incredible, life like even. I'd never seen myself looking so beautiful.

"Nathan, that's incredible!"

"I just keep having this image come into my mind. I know I've seen it before; I just don't know where," he explained. I flashed back to the night I first saw Nathan and remembered him asking if I was an angel. I smiled.

"Well, you're very talented. You could be an artist!"

"Yeah," he smiled, "I've always wanted to do that. Writing and drawing are my passion. My mom thinks it's a silly dream."

I sat down on the rolling stool and began to take Nathan's pulse.

"If you're passionate about it, you should do it! Don't let what anyone says keep you from living your passions." I instructed. A smile crossed Nathan's lips.

"I wish Angie and I had a mother like you," he confessed.

"Sometimes we have to give ourselves what we need from others. If your mom doesn't support you, give yourself all the encouragement you wish you'd gotten from her." I said patting his arm. Nathan nodded, clearly taking the words to heart.

A few days later Nathan was released from the hospital. His mom Judy showed up to collect him and sign the release forms. She was all business in a pencil skirt and a phone glued to her ear. She hastily signed the forms and continued her conversation.

"Come on Nathan, I have a meeting to go to," she said, pulling her phone away from her ear for a moment before firmly planting it back in place. Nathan looked up at me sheepishly.

"Thanks for everything," he said.

"Of course," I smiled, "Take care of yourself, Nathan." I clamped him on the shoulder before the nurse rolled him hurriedly away, trailing behind his mother who had already walked away. I wondered if I would ever see him again.

10 Years Later

One morning, while sipping my coffee, I heard the doorbell ring. Curious about who it could be at 8 a.m. on a Saturday, I wondered down the hallway to the front door.

"Can I help you?" I asked opening the door.

"Delivery," The man in a uniform stated, holding out a package to me. It was wrapped in brown paper with twine. It had no name on it.

"Thank you," I said taking the box and eyeing it with interest. I closed the door behind me and walked back to the kitchen. I placed the box on the mahogany kitchen table. Slowly I untied the twine and removed the brown wrapping paper. I opened the box and peered inside. After moving the shredded paper used to cushion the contents of the box, I discovered a book. I picked it up and studied the cover.

"Words Of Encouragement," I murmured, "By Nathan Summers." A gasp escaped my lips as I put my hand to my mouth. Tears began to fill my eyes. "He did it..." I opened the cover and began to leaf through the pages.

'To Nurse Anna Flemming, sometimes all it takes is a little kindness and a little encouragement.' Below the words was the sketch that Nathan had drawn of me all those years ago.

"I can't believe it," I mused, a huge smile playing across my face. I continued to scan the page. Below the pictures, hand written in black ink, he had scrawled the words 'P.S. check the box.'

"That's odd," I whispered to myself, setting the book aside. I looked down at the box to inspect the contents. I removed the shredded brown paper and looked into the bottom. I sat down, unsure if what I was seeing was real.

"This can't be real..." I said. Covering the bottom of the box was money, a shocking $20,000 in all. Underneath was a short note.

'Dear Nurse Anna,

Sometimes all it takes is a kind deed and a little encouragement to change someone's life. I've always wanted to pay you back for your kindness and thanks to you, now I can.


Nathan Summers'

I never realized what an impact that I had made on that young man all those years ago, but I know I'll never be able to thank him enough. I had always been taught as a child to treat people as you would your loved ones. You never know how small acts just might change someone's life.


About the author

Lindsay Birge

My name is Lindsay and I have always loved writing. My favorite things to write are feel good stories and anything with animals. Thanks for reading!

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