Sunday, December 21, 2014

A gift straight from Thomas’ heart

From page A6 | December 12, 2012 |

Thomas Nishikawa. Courtesy photo

By Jeannie Johng-Nishikawa

My 12-year-old daughter Victoria plays the violin and often needs me to buy her new strings. With her winter concert approaching, I knew I’d be making a trip to Watermelon Music in downtown Davis. I wanted the errand to go as quickly as possible. It was a freezing day and because I couldn’t find parking nearby, the children and I had a cold walk ahead of us.

Homeless people gather in that area of downtown, and it staggers me. Not because I don’t like homeless people. It staggers me because I want desperately to help people who are in desperate situations. But there isn’t a clear solution to homelessness. Homelessness is a problem too complex to be solved by kindness or money alone. I usually give whatever cash I have on hand and walk away quickly. I often feel embarrassed or ashamed I couldn’t do more.

That morning there was a homeless woman seated against the wall near the bank. She had a sign placed in front of her asking for help. I had Victoria and my 8-year-old son Thomas with me, and I wanted to usher them quickly past her. I gave her a $5 bill, but I did what I could not to make eye contact.

In Watermelon Music, we bought new strings for Victoria and asked Mika, a specialist, to string them for her. As Mika was stringing the violin, Thomas asked for a quarter for the gumball machine. I gave Thomas my last quarter and turned back to the counter. Then Mika noticed that the gumball machine had jammed and Thomas had lost his quarter. She gave him a quarter from her pocket and told him to try again. Though I didn’t see Thomas chewing gum, I figured he’d been able to get his gumball and was saving it.

After Mika finished, we left the store and planned to walk to our car as briskly as possible. I’d already forgotten the homeless woman sitting there from earlier. I tried to push the kids along, but I noticed Thomas had stopped right in front of the woman and was giving her something from his pocket. He placed it right in front of her feet.

I felt nervous that Thomas was bothering her, or even worse that me might try to take some of her change. But to my surprise, what he’d offered to her was the quarter he’d saved.

My daughter and I were shocked. We’d never seen Thomas interact with a stranger like that before. Some bystanders had even stopped to watch.

The homeless woman picked up Thomas’s quarter and said, “Thank you. Your quarter is worth more to me than the $5 your mother gave me, because it came from your heart.” As we walked away, I saw the homeless woman had tears in her eyes.

Later I asked Thomas why he had given the woman his only quarter. He said, “I wanted to give her something, but I didn’t know how or what to do, so I just gave her my quarter because that was all I had.”

That was when I felt a rush of joy in my heart. My son Thomas has autism, and at times he has trouble processing complex social situations. He is a loving, compassionate son, but it wasn’t until that day that I’d considered the empathy he felt for homeless people, or other people he’d seen suffering in public. All those situations that I tried to shield him from.

Thomas taught me so much that day. He taught me not to be afraid of suffering, whether it is my own suffering or someone else’s. He taught me to pause in the presence of someone who is in need. And most of all, he showed me that compassion overrides all borders for what we construct as “normal” or “disabled.”

It is possible to model compassion for others, but it is impossible to make their hearts do something they are unwilling to do. Victoria and I witnessed Thomas’ honest act of generosity and compassion. It means something that I couldn’t have predicted it — it came only from him.

— Jeannie Johng-Nishikawa is a Davis resident. Thomas is a student at Birch Lane Elementary School.




Special to The Enterprise

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .


    What’s new at UCD? Construction projects abound

    By Tanya Perez | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    No-nonsense Musser voted Citizen of the Year

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Brinley Plaque honors environmental stalwart

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Sharing a meal, and so much more

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Raul Castro: Don’t expect detente to change Cuban system

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Police seek help in finding runaway twin girls

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

    March trial date set in Davis molest case

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

    Downtown crash results in DUI arrest

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

    AP sources: Cops’ killer angry over Garner death

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    North Korea proposes joint probe over Sony hacking

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Donors, volunteers honored on Philanthropy Day

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Soup’s On will benefit NAMI-Yolo

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Pedal around Davis on weekly bike ride

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Supplies collected for victims of abuse

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Surprise honor is really nice, dude

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery



    Google me this: Should I hit that button?

    By Marion Franck | From Page: B4

    E-cigs surpass regular cigarettes among teens

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

    It’s not a pretty picture

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B4

    Too late to pick a fight

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

    All police need to humanize

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Are we only a fair-weather bike city?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Join us in making our world more just

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

    The electronic equivalent of war

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

    The Green House effect: Homes where the elderly thrive

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A11



    Stenz shines as DHS girls take a tournament title

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Aggie Manzanares not quite finished carrying the rock

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    UCD women look to improve, despite game at No. 7 Stanford

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Second-half run spurs Aggie men to 8-1

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    49ers fall to San Diego in overtime

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B10







    Marrone Bio expands its product reach in Latin America

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Sierra Northern Railway names CEO

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Sink your teeth into Vampire Penguin

    By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A4 | Gallery





    Comics: Sunday, December 21, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B8