Published on May 12, 2020

Two kind words made a big difference in a child’s life

Note to readers: I know this is my column, but occasionally, Roy (my husband) has some stories he wants to share, so we work together on those ideas. He writes them down, and all I really do is type them out and polish them.

You have already read a couple of stories about his Grandpa Ruffo, and I’m sure you will be hearing more about him in the future. Like me, Roy usually writes about something in life that touched his soul – and the story below is about one such incident. It demonstrates the power of a kind word. During this pandemic, when our whole world is turned upside down, we can all benefit from the magic of a kind word. – Janice R. Edwards

By Roy Edwards
Special to The Bulletin

Back in the ‘70s, I went to work for Frito-Lay in Houston as a route salesman. My route was in the third ward of Houston, an inner-city area just southwest of downtown. I served a lot of small retail stores in the area.

Residents would open their garages or open their front rooms in the early mornings and afternoons, selling chips, candy, soft drinks and a few other items to school children and neighbors, as there were no full-line grocery stores in the area. There were a few stores that carried a convenience store assortment of groceries. That area covered less than two square miles, but it had 111 places that carried Frito-Lay products.

One of my favorite stops was an old two-story house that used about 1,000 square feet for groceries. It was one of the largest “stores” in the area and was operated by a very nice lady in her mid-40s, her daughter and her young grandson. This store, like all the others on this route, only carried the small, individual-serving-size bags of chips.

After checking the display, I would go to the truck to get the chips needed to fill the display. The grandmother would check the delivery against my invoice, and I would then start putting the order into the display. I have big hands and could pick up eight to 12 bags at a time.

The second time I worked the display, the grandson watched what I was doing. About halfway through my putting chips in the rack, he reached into the box, pulled out a bag of chips and handed it to me. I took the bag, looked at him, smiled and said, “thank you.” His eyes lit up, and he smiled and clapped his hands.

I put more chips on the display, and he got another bag and gave it to me. Again, I would take the bag from him, smile, and say “thank you.” He would look at me, smile and clap. It took a little longer than necessary to go through this routine, but I worked on commission, not on a time clock. I was having fun, and so was my young “helper.” This routine went on for about three months.

As I walked into the store one day, the grandmother ran toward me with tears running down her cheeks. She grabbed me around the neck, placing her head on my shoulder, sobbing. Before I could react, the mother came in from the other side, and placed her arms around my neck, crying. I had no idea what was going on – or why.

After several minutes of being locked in the arms of these two sobbing ladies, the grandmother released me from her iron grip, stepped back and said, “I need to tell you what’s going on.”
“My grandson is non-verbal autistic. Last night at supper, when I placed his plate in front of him, he looked at me, smiled, clapped his hands and spoke the first words since he was born, four and a half years ago.

He said, “thank you.”

(Write Jan or Roy in care of The Bulletin. Email: john.bulletin@gmail.com. Snail mail: The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX, 77516.)