Ellie felt like she had lost everything when the tsunami hit her hometown. But thanks to her grandmother’s kindness, and a community that rallied around her, she was able to bounce back.
Ellie was only eight years old when a tsunami hit her old neighborhood. She had been out of town on a school trip when disaster struck. Her parents, Jude & Rachel, were lost during the tragedy.
“I’m so sorry, Ellie. Your grandma is on her way to pick you up,” Ellie’s teacher told her. With her house left in complete ruin, all Ellie had left was the bag she had packed for her school trip. Her grandmother, Louisa, welcomed Ellie into her home as the young girl had nowhere else to go.
Louisa lived in a different state to Ellie’s hometown, which meant that Ellie needed to transfer to a new school. She felt alone and isolated, away from her old friends and in a new environment. Louisa could tell her granddaughter was struggling and wished that she could help.
She was already retired and barely had enough money to cover their needs. To make matters worse, Jude & Rachel’s belongings were destroyed in the tsunami. Louisa couldn’t afford to buy Ellie new clothes.
“There’s nothing to be ashamed of, Ellie,” Louisa reassured her. Ellie was very embarrassed as she was growing taller, meaning that her clothes were visibly small. Ellie avoided attending class and would often hide in the bathrooms. After school, she would run home before her classmates could see her.
“I think there’s enough material to make a bunch of new clothes. Could I please use mom’s old sewing machine?”
Ellie kept a notebook full of designs and often dreamed of how she would dress if she were rich. Meanwhile, Ellie’s teacher, Mrs. Roberts, began to notice her absence from classes. Her classmates also knew nothing about her or why she was never around.
“The new girl never talks to us,” one student explained to Mrs. Roberts. Mrs. Roberts decided to get to the bottom of the situation and called Louisa. That’s when the older woman tearfully explained to Mrs. Roberts that Ellie had lost everything and felt self-conscious.
“I’ve found some of her drawings. I think she’s ashamed that we can’t afford to buy her new clothes for school,” Louisa explained.
Mrs. Roberts felt guilt towards the young girl, who had already suffered due to the tsunami. She contacted the school’s parent-teacher association and requested that everyone donate clothes to Ellie.
Everybody in Ellie’s class chipped in, giving any old clothes that they could to help her. While the clothes weren’t perfect fits, Ellie was deeply grateful.
“Thank you so much, Mrs. Roberts. This means the world to me,” Ellie told her teacher.
Ellie had the perfect plan to use the ill-fitting clothes to make something special.
Ellie’s mother, Rachel, was a seamstress and taught her daughter how to sew when she was very young. Ellie saw in old photographs that her mother had a brown sewing machine many years ago.
“I think there’s enough material to make a bunch of new clothes. Could I please use mom’s old sewing machine?” Ellie asked Louisa.
Louisa kept all of Rachel’s old belongings in her attic and knew precisely where to find the machine. That evening, Ellie got to work straight away. She used all of her classmates’ old clothes and was able to recreate some of the designs in her notebook.
“Your kindness is why I’m up here today.”
For the first time since the tsunami, Ellie was pleased. Louisa helped her grandaughter all night, and it warmed her heart to see Ellie smiling again.
“She looks so much like Rachel,” Louisa mumbled to herself and sighed. She found her old polaroid camera in the attic and snapped a picture of Ellie working the sewing machine.
Ellie felt relieved. For the first time in months, she felt comfortable in her clothes. She was excited to go to school and thank everyone for her sending her clothes even though she had been quiet since arriving.
“Wow, Ellie! You look so cool,” her classmate Erika told her. “Did you do this yourself?” her classmate Jonathan asked.She told her class she was grateful for their help and promised to never skip lessons again. From that day on, she never missed class again and made new friends at her school for the first time.
They were all impressed with her designs and even asked Ellie to design their Halloween costumes. Ellie excelled in art classes, and Mrs. Roberts decided to make a suggestion.
“In a few years, when you go off to college, I highly recommend you to take a design course,” she suggested.
Ellie took her advice and even dedicated her college degree to Mrs. Roberts years later. After a few years, Mrs. Roberts and Ellie’s old classmates received an invitation to the opening of a new design studio called “The Old & The New.”
At the event, Ellie paid tribute to the class that donated clothes to her. She created custom pieces for everyone, using designer apparel from thrift stores. Ellie also donated clothes to local charities as part of the launch.
“This is for the kids who helped me rebuild my life after I lost my parents. Your kindness is why I’m up here today. From the bottom of my heart, thank you,” she told her audience.
Louisa and Mrs. Roberts congratulated Ellie on a successful launch. “You look great up there. One could say it’s the perfect fit,” Louisa told Ellie.
Ellie had one more surprise for her grandmother, a t-shirt. On the front of the shirt were two pictures, side-by-side. On the left was Rachel using the sewing machine. Next to it was the picture that Louisa had snapped of Ellie years later, using the same device.
What can we learn from this story?
Ask for help. In her time of need, Ellie felt as though she couldn’t turn to her classmates. In the end, they were very helpful when they learned of her circumstances.
Always show appreciation. Many years after becoming a successful designer, Ellie showed love to those who helped her in her time of need.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.