Sometimes a little kid makes all of us so-called grown-ups look pretty childish. When was the last time any of us went out of our way to thank a stranger even though we had just been visited by a personal tragedy? In Sacramento, California recently, doctors told a little girl that her mother wasn't coming home or waking up. The girl's mother had collapsed on the kitchen floor of her home. It's the kind of thing that happens to lots of families every day. But what made this tragedy different was the strength and class displayed by a nine-year-old girl who just lost her mother. The girl's first instinct was to personally thank the police officer that had been called to the scene.
She even told the cop she was sorry that she had to watch her Mom die. "I'm really grateful that you guys came and helped my family," the girl told Sacramento Police Officer Sunny Cranford. "You kept trying, even though you couldn't do anything."
According to a story by the Associated Press in the Sacramento Bee, the girl's bravery and compassion has touched an entire department which makes its living by being brave and compassionate. A small part of the emotions in Sacramento have to do with fact that "thanks for trying to help as best you could" is not something cops hear a lot, or at all. That goes double in neighborhoods like the rough and tumble Meadowview section of Sacramento - one of the city's high-crime areas.
But the story here is the amazing display of respect and gratitude from a girl who lost her Mom. The officer who responded to the scene where the girl's mother was on the kitchen floor said that it's a pretty emotional thing when you get a call like that:
"When you get a call like this, it pulls on your heartstrings a bit," Cranford said.
Officers were so impressed with the girl that they felt they had to do something to help. Recently Officer Cranford and some of her colleagues stopped by the girl's 10th birthday party to deliver a truckload of gifts. They bought the girl, whose name is being withheld for privacy issues, a brand new glittery purple bike and matching helmet.
The cops also gave the girl's father, a 39-year-old El Salvadoran immigrant laid off from his job as a minimart clerk three weeks before his wife's death, $3,660 in cash to help the family in their time of need. "I don't know what to say," the father told the officers according to the AP. "You don't have to say anything," they told him.
The Bee is not naming the family to protect the children and prevent the family from being victimized.
The experience of Officer Cranford in this heart-breaking tale is a part of police work that gets scarce attention. At the hospital, when doctors told the girl and her father the mother wasn't going to make it, Officer Cranford held the couple's seven-month-old as her older sister and their father absorbed the news. She showed tremendous concern for everyone involved except herself.
She worried about her father, the officers who responded and her grandmother, who, the child said, had a bad heart.
It's not easy to for an immigrant family to sort out what's going on these days when a team of uniformed cops approach a ten-year-old's birthday party.
The girl's family is no different. When officers pulled up to the girl's birthday party, some family members looked startled to see so many blue uniforms coming their way. But then the little girl came bouncing out of the garage.
"It's OK," she said, beaming. "These are my friends."
Reporting for this article was done by the Associated Press.
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