During university, I spent time volunteering with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).
Some of the most rewarding volunteer work I have ever done.
As part of the CMHA Friends Program, I was matched with a child between the ages of 4-15 years old, who was referred by their school as in need of support.
Once a week I met with my "buddy" to work on building self-esteem, social skills and confidence.
We would play sports and board games, read books or work on arts and crafts. Sometimes we would just sit and talk.
I thoroughly enjoyed, and looked forward to the time I'd get to spend with my pint-sized pal.
The most significant challenge we focused on was learning how to lose constructively. Something, I admit, still doesn't come easy to me.
For a year, I worked with this grade-school'er to harness their competitive nature; their fire, and channel it into something productive.
The growth and development I witnessed was remarkable.
On my final visit I chauffeured my buddy back to class as usual, but was asked to wait a minute before leaving.
Racing to the cubbyhole area, they reached into their backpack, retrieved something and eagerly made their way back to me. With an ear-to-ear grin they presented me with the mystery item.
It was a rock.
*dun dun chh*
A tiny, smooth little pebble that fit square in the palm of my hand.
For a moment, I was reminded of the classic scene in the Peanuts movie It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! - which, by the way, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year - when Charlie Brown receives a rock in his Trick Or Treat bag.
What my buddy said to me next is something I'll never forget.
"I'm going to miss you, Ms T. I spent all recess looking for the most perfect rock I could find. I wanted to give you something so you wouldn't forget me. I hope we can still be friends."
To this day, that is one of the best gifts I've ever received. Certainly the most memorable.
I got a rock, and I'm forever grateful for it.