The Red Balloon


When I was three or four years old, my red balloon broke as I was getting into my parent’s car after a parade. It was my very first helium balloon and it was my favorite color. I can still remember how loud the “pop” was when the balloon broke, and how dumbfounded I was, staring at the empty space where a bright, shining globe had been a moment before. And then, I began to cry. I cried because I was startled by the loud noise. I cried because I was unpleasantly surprised, and I cried because my balloon was gone.

My grandfather was standing nearby and he saw what happened. He said something to my mother and then he disappeared down the alley between the two houses we were parked behind. My mother comforted me and slowly the storm of tears passed. I still felt sad. And then, there was my grandfather, leaning into the car, holding out a brand-new, bright red balloon, bobbing merrily on its long string. Although the parade was over, the observers and vendors dispersing, he had plunged back into the crowd, searching on block after block for anyone who still had balloons to sell, and most importantly, a red balloon to sell. It took him nearly thirty minutes, but he found one. And he brought it back to me.

I was three, or maybe four. And yet I remember this happening so clearly. Why? Because it made such an impression on me. My grandfather was kind. He wasn’t spoiling me, and he wasn’t trying to shut me up. He did what he did because he knew how much it meant to me and because this was something he could fix. I was so, so happy to have another balloon, and another chance at that giddy feeling I got when the string of the first balloon was placed in my hand. We don’t always get a second chance. We don’t always deserve a second chance. But sometimes, just sometimes it is within our power to give someone else a second chance. God is all about second chances, and we should be, too. Who knows what precious memory we might create, what happiness we might inspire, what darkness we might chase away. Be kind and the world will be a better place for it.


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