A Million Dollar Movie
This web site contains stories of physical, mental, emotional, and sexual child abuse.

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"City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style. In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas," sang Kate Smith through the large, black speakers, which hung outside the front door of the big department store.

I twirled myself around to look at all the beautiful colored lights, which lit up the downtown streets of Jacksonville, Florida at night. Looking down the street, I saw thousands of red colored taillights on cars as they passed us by. I tried to raise my shoulders to protect my ears from the cold gusts of wind that blew through the city at this time of year.

"Children laughing, people passing, meeting smile after smile and on every street corner you hear. Silver Bells (Silver Bells), Silver Bells (Silver Bells). Its Christmas time in the city," continued the song.

As I turned back around, I caught my reflection in the large plate glass window of the store. Slowly, I reached out and touched my face in the window. I stood there wondering why there was no smile on my face.

"I got two dollars to spend. You can be happy now," I said under my breath.

"Ring-a-ling (Ring-a-ling), Just hear them ring (Hear them ring). Soon it will be Christmas day.” Kate Smith continued to sing.

All at once and for no reason at all, I leaned against the plate glass window and began to cry.

"What's wrong?" asked the man, as he knelt down and put his arm around my shoulder.

"I never seen myself look unhappy in the pretty Christmas lights before," I told him.

The Jacksonville Kiwanis Club, OR the Jacksonville, Florida Masonic Lodge OR the Jacksonville JayCees had come to the orphanage where we lived and took us in groups of five to downtown Jacksonville. Each child was given $2 so they could buy themselves a Christmas gift.

"You should not be unhappy. It's Christmas. Why do you suppose you are so unhappy?" he asked me as he tightened his arm to hug me even more.

"I don't like living in the orphanage no more. It's a real bad place.”

"Oh, it can't be that bad. Can it?" he questioned.

"It's bad. It's really, really bad."

"How old are you now?"

"I just turned seven a while ago," I told him.

All at once, I began crying again.

"Do you think that some day a girl will think that I'm pretty, even with these here big ears and this big scar on my face?" I asked, as I pointed to my chin.

“Well, I think you are very handsome little boy.”

"Does handsome make me pretty?" I asked.

"All children are pretty. You remember that, ok?”

When I looked up into his face, all my sadness seemed to disappear. No one could smile like that and be telling a lie.

"Come on; let’s take you boys to the movie!” he told us.

During the movie he bought us all the popcorn and candy that we wanted. I remember thinking how wonderful it was, that someone would spend his own money on someone like us. We all laughed at the funny movie and had a good time. The man would laugh hard and then pat me on top of the head. Then he would laugh again, reach over and rustle my hair. I would look at him and he would just keep smiling, his great big wonderful smile.

That trip to the movies was the first time in my life I ever felt as if someone really cared about me. It was a wonderful feeling, which I have never forgotten, even to this day, 50 years later. I had never felt anything like that in my entire life.

I do not know if that man felt sorry for me or what, but I do know this: if I ever win the big lottery, that man will find out he carried a million-dollar smile.

The purpose of this story is to let every organization know that any kindness shown to a child can last a lifetime. When the gift(s) are long gone that kindness lives on and will be passed on to others. In the end, the gift that costs money faded away and is buried away in some distant landfill. But the present that remained was the gift that costs absolutely nothing. It is called “kindness.”

Roger Dean Kiser, author

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