Sometimes the good we do can have far-reaching effects. The seed of love we plant today may blossom into a tree that bears fruit time and time again. We may never even get to see that fruit. But in some cases, we are lucky enough to be able to do just that.
This is what I thought when I read about Nashat Cassim’s and Karen Ayotte’s story.
Over 20 years ago, at the age of five, Cassim and his family arrived in downtown Toronto from Sri Lanka. To say that the change of scenery was different must be an understatement. Settling in the not-so-safe-and-secure Regent Park area of the city, Cassim was intimidated and afraid to begin his first year in a new school, in a new city, in a new country.
But his soon-to-be Junior Kindergarten teachers at Sprucecourt Public School knew this and decided to do something extraordinary about it. Before the start of school, these two teachers brought Cassim school supplies along with their warmth and support.
Cassim never forgot this act of kindness. And in fact, he believes it may very well be part of the reason he is so passionate about education today.
Now a pediatric dentistry resident at the University of Toronto, Cassim not only works at the Hospital for Sick Children and Mount Sinai in downtown Toronto, but he does outreach to youth in his old community of Regent Park. His after-school program Junior Smiles aims to teach kids about oral health.
Cassim has often thought fondly of these two teachers from his distant past, but never knew exactly how to make contact with them. Social media only came about recently.
Enter Cassim’s mother, who was looking to put a flower planter she wanted to sell on Facebook Marketplace. Cassim did so on her behalf, and one response thereto in particular caught his attention.
It was from a “Karen Ayotte” of The Beaches neighborhood in Toronto. Remembering the name of his favorite Junior Kindergarten teacher, Cassim responded.
The coincidence was amazing, and reunited these two after 23 years.
At their in-person meeting, Cassim brought with him the flower stand, a thank you note, and a coffee shop gift card. He was finally able to communicate his thanks for their kindness to him. “I don’t know if I’d be where I am today without them giving me that foundation,” said Cassim.
And in return, Ms. Ayotte was able to see what a beautiful person Cassim turned out to be. Giving back – in his own way – to the children of his community.
A little kindness can go a long way, and spread like wildfire.
Note: Cassim also got in touch with Ms. Gibson, the second Junior Kindergarten teacher who visited him all those years ago. The three will be reuniting in person soon as things with the pandemic improve.