Sarah was a single mother who worked a small job at the municipal corporation. Her husband Edward had died tragically in a car accident a few years before, and her in-laws had kicked her and her children out of the house, blaming her for being a bad omen in their son’s life.
Unfortunately, Sarah’s parents had left for their heavenly abode at a young age, so she had nowhere to go after Edward passed away. She lived on the streets for several days with her kids and then somehow managed to get a minor job. It didn’t pay her much, but it could at least get them food and shelter.
One day, Sarah was on her way back from the market when she saw her neighbor Mrs. Duncan crying inconsolably at the entrance of their colony. Worried, Sarah quickly approached her. “Mrs. Duncan, what happened? Are you okay?” she said, alarmed.
“I don’t know what to do, Sarah,” Mrs. Duncan sobbed. “This month has been a nightmare for me in ways I can’t explain.”
“Please, Mrs. Duncan, stop crying. We can figure something out together. Actually, just tell me how I can help you out,” Sarah said.
“Oh, no, no … I can’t ask you for help. You already have two children to care for on your own,” Mrs. Duncan responded immediately.
“It’s okay, Mrs. Duncan,” Sarah insisted. “Just let me know how I can assist you.”
Mrs. Duncan wiped her tears. “Actually, I need $10 to buy paint and I don’t have it, so the seller kicked me out. Since this month, none of my paintings have been sold and I ran out of savings, I don’t have any money with me.”
Sahar felt terrible for the old lady. Mrs. Duncan’s husband had died of cancer, and they had no children. When she was younger, the lonely woman worked as an art teacher in a school, and when she retired, she sketched and sold paintings to supplement her income.
Sarah couldn’t stand the sight of the old lady crying her heart out and decided to help her. However, when she reached into her pocket, she discovered she only had $10 left.
She recalled her starved children at home and how they had been living on a shoestring budget. But then she saw Mrs. Duncan, who was in desperate need of money. Without giving it much thought, Sarah offered the money to the poor woman. “I have $10, Mrs. Duncan. You can take it from me,” she said.
Mrs. Duncan was hesitant to take the money from Sarah, but because she kept insisting, Mrs. Duncan finally gave in.
The next day when Sarah went to work, she learned that her colleague had quit because she found the work very exhausting.
When Sarah heard the news, she felt like quitting too, but then she remembered her kids at home and the last savings she had given to Mrs. Duncan. She quickly abandoned the idea of quitting because she knew her kids would starve until she found a new job. But that wasn’t the end of it.
She worked twice as hard in the ensuing days to ensure that her children did not miss out on anything. She seldom slept or ate, which took a tremendous toll on her body. And one day, she couldn’t get out of bed to go to work.
The kids asked their mother if they should go to the doctor, but Sarah declined because she knew she didn’t have any insurance or money at home. Because the children couldn’t bear seeing their sick mother in that state, they took care of her on their own, but Sarah’s health continued to deteriorate.
Mrs. Duncan, on the other hand, had hoped to meet Sarah and thank her, but the woman never came outside her house. Worried, Mrs. Duncan decided to visit Sarah and was surprised to see her helplessly lying on her bed.
“Oh my goodness, Sarah, what happened to you?” Mrs. Duncan inquired, worried.
“I don’t think I will survive, Mrs. Duncan,” Sarah struggled to speak. “You see the tree outside the window, right? I have a feeling when the last leaf falls, I will die too.”
Mrs. Duncan felt so bad for Sarah that her heart sank. She took Sarah’s children to her home, cared for them, and visited Sarah every day. Whenever Sarah was feeling down, she also tried to cheer her up, but nothing was working. Her condition was worsening with each passing day.
“Look, Mrs. Duncan, there are fewer leaves on the tree now,” Sarah remarked one day as Mrs. Duncan brought her soup.
“I’m sure you’ll be well before all leaves fall, Sarah, so don’t worry,” Mrs. Duncan responded cheerfully. Thankfully, that’s what happened.
The weather worsened over the next few days, and there was heavy rain and wind every night. When Sarah awoke one morning, she was convinced that the tree had lost all of its leaves and that she, too, would die. She asked Mrs. Duncan to open the curtains for her but was astounded to see that one leaf had clung to a tree branch.
“How is this possible?” Sarah was taken aback.
“Well, Sarah, if this last leaf didn’t give up, maybe you shouldn’t either? What do you think, huh?” Mrs. Duncan said.
These words stayed with Sarah and helped her rediscover hope, and she began to fight. Soon after, the woman started to recuperate, and her health improved.
One day, when she went for a walk with her children, she met Mrs. Duncan again. “I’m still shocked that I survived Mrs. Duncan. Thank you for looking after me and giving me positivity!”
Mrs. Duncan smiled warmly at her. “It was your $10 that saved your life, Sarah, that you never regretted giving to me!”
Sarah looked at her, perplexed. “What exactly do you mean?”
“Well…” Mrs. Duncan began to explain. It turned out that she had painted the last leaf to look exactly like the scenery outside Sarah’s window. When Sarah saw that it didn’t fall after the terrible weather, she regained hope to fight her illness.
Sarah hugged Mrs. Duncan and thanked her. “I don’t know how to thank you, Mrs. Duncan. Your painting saved my life.”
Mrs. Duncan hugged her back and said, “No, Sarah, I just repaid your act of kindness. You helped me that day without expecting anything in return. So don’t thank me. I’m glad I was able to help you out.”