The Crumpled Ribbon and a Moment of Grace

award ribbonA sweaty little kindergartener came running towards me from the playground one afternoon. When he got close, I noticed he had something crumpled tightly in his hand. He reached out his hand to show me his prize as the words tumbled out of him in one long, continuous breath: “Mommy, a friend spilled her water, and I helped her, and I got to pick this ribbon, and I picked the rainbow one.” As he exhaled, I unwadded and examined the ribbon from his hand. “It says Awesome!” I exclaimed. We continued inside the building to get his backpack and along the way, we met a few other teachers who high-fived my son and explained to me the significance of the ribbon. Apparently, when a student does an unexpected good deed, he or she gets called down to the office to get an “Awesome Christian” ribbon. My son was smiling from ear to ear as he carried his ribbon proudly to the car.

The rest of the evening, he was extraordinarily helpful. He joyfully went into the store with me, carrying the basket and arranging all the groceries in it just so. He immediately got to work on his homework when he got home and was nicer than usual to his younger brothers. Somehow, the title “Awesome Christian” invited my son to a new form of awesomeness around the home. Being recognized for a good deed brought him both joy and a new commitment (albeit short-lived—he is five, after all) to being good. What was more surprising, however, was what that crumpled, rainbow-colored ribbon showed me.

Ever since my son was diagnosed with hearing loss last year, I have been gung-ho about helping him with all he needed to get to kindergarten. It was a long year full of doctor appointments, research, equipment buying, and testing. He has been through a lot of testing. I was worried about where all of this would lead, always wondering how he would do. I worried that he would struggle in the classroom or struggle to make friends. I was caught up in the desolation of it all. The worry became a part of me, seeping into my bones. There seemed always to be something new to worry about, something new to fight for.

But suddenly, here he was in kindergarten. In fact, he had been in kindergarten for weeks already, and he had, without my truly noticing, settled right in. His teachers were doing all they could to help him, and he was learning new things every day. He was thriving, and I had somehow missed it. I was swept up by the comfort of desolation when consolation was right around the corner, beckoning to me.

That night, I helped my son affix his ribbon to his wall. Instinctively, my hand reached up to smooth out the wrinkles as I felt a smile form on my face. Who would have thought that a crumpled, rainbow ribbon would bring such a perfect moment of unexpected grace and overwhelming gratitude!

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Gretchen Crowder
Gretchen Crowder has served as a campus minister and Ignatian educator for the Jesuit Dallas community for the last 15 years. She is also a freelance writer and speaker and is the host of Loved As You Are: An Ignatian Podcast. She has a B.S. in mathematics and a M.Ed. from the University of Notre Dame as well as an M.T.S. from the University of Dallas. She resides in Dallas, TX, with her husband, three boys, and an ever-growing number of pets.


  1. Thank you so much for such a lovely story! It’s wonderful to see how recognition for good words in one area bleed out into other areas (even if short-lived!). Even as adults, when we do something good, it makes us kinder, gentler humans to others. Good life lesson.

  2. This is such a great story about grace and the importance of little gestures of appreciation. That ribbon – and the process of it being awarded – has the potential to impact his life and the lives of so many others. Thank you for sharing the journey and the ways you are helping your son form into a young man for others.

  3. How absolutely wonderful and heartwarming. Thanks for sharing. Continued success to your son in his quest to always be an “Awesome Christian”, and kudos to the Mom who has shown him the way.

  4. Currently my family is dealing with a serious illness in one of our closest members. It is so easy to be stuck in desolation. Yet God has been faithful to shine lights of consolation through laughter, nature and kind words of others around us. We trust that God will intercede and bring us victory. I am learning even in the darkest time of desolation, consolation is shines its light if we are open to see it through the dark clouds. Great article. Blessings

  5. I’m a substitute High School teacher and it starts when they’re small but
    It continues on….if kids are validated in doing good; it just passes forward, & continues on……


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