An act of kindness from a first-grader to her classmate on the first day of school changed everything for one terrified Texas student.
This was in the 1970s, when young Kimberly Patman’s household was the first black family to enroll in the Cedar Hill school district in Dallas. She still remembers the moment a little girl tapped her on the shoulder during recess at Bray Elementary. It was an offer of friendship from fellow first-grader LeeAnn Polster.
Fifty years on, the pair are still inseparable.
“The first day of school, I was so afraid and cried because everybody was different from me,” Patman recalled to ABC. “Everybody was white and I was Black, so I was just scared. I don’t know why I was scared, but I was scared.”
Polster, born and raised in Cedar Hill, was stirred by Patman’s first-day fears and approached her to ask why she was crying. “[She] told me not to be scared and that she would be my friend,” Patman recalled.
“I was just so happy to have somebody to talk to, because nobody had talked to me all morning.”
Polster doesn’t remember the encounter, but claims it “really touches” her to know how much it meant to her friend. The lasting kinship that followed speaks volumes.
Describing her companion as “so easy to get along with,” Polster said, “Kim is very outgoing and everybody loves her, and I definitely was much more quiet as a kid. I think that’s part of why we click.”
Separated in third grade, the two students were reunited as sixth-graders and renewed their bond like no time had passed. Close ever since, the women say they have grown closer since their children left home.
Still a small school with around 300 students, Bray Elementary has changed somewhat in the past 50-odd years since the friends attended. Their bond highlights the school’s message of acceptance—such that the two were invited back to share their story with the first-graders.
“Friendship and kindness and commitment are such amazing pillars that we [instill] in kids every day,” Bray Elementary principal Shequita Miller said. “Their story is what we really need to hear right now.”
Patman will never know how it might have ended had she not met her friend on that first day of school so many years ago.
“It just takes somebody to have a kind heart and to reach out to somebody,” Patman said, adding that her best friend’s gesture made “a big difference” in her life.
“It was a bond that was just meant to be,” she said.