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A simple gesture and blue dress bring forth a great revolution to Gates Avenue.
The Girl from Gates Avenue
It was the spring of 1909 in Cleveland. Gates Avenue was a relatively small street, but because of how appalling it was, it felt longer. The majority of the families there were quite poor. They even lacked running water and had not painted their homes in many years. That spring, while the other students at the school dressed nicely, the girl from Gates Avenue continued to wear the dirty outfit she had been sporting all winter. She most likely only had that dress.
This grabbed the teacher’s attention. The teacher found the young girl extremely sweet. She put up a lot of effort in school and was consistently cordial and pleasant. One day the teacher requested the girl to wash her face and come to school. The young girl had neat hair and a clean face the following morning. Before the little girl went home that afternoon, the teacher made another request. She wanted the girl to wear washed clothes the next day.
When the girl attended class in the same dirty clothes, the teacher bought her a bright blue dress. The young girl joyfully accepted the present. She wore her brand-new blue dress to school the following morning and exclaimed enthusiastically to her teacher, that her parents would be very impressed. The family had never used a tablecloth before, so the father was surprised to see one at supper. The mother was ashamed of her unhygienic habits and now they would change for the better.
The mother started cleaning the kitchen floor after dinner. After watching his wife, the father went outside and started mending the fence. The next evening, he began building a garden with assistance from his family. During the following week, the man in the house next door observed what his neighbour was doing. The man too started painting his house for the first time in ten years.
The young pastor of a church close to Gates Avenue passed these two houses a few days later and noticed two men at work there. For the first time, he observed that Gates Avenue was unpaved and devoid of any streetlights or running water. Watching these residents work so hard to make decent homes, he decided to help them. He requested support from a few influential city residents.
A pavement was installed on Gates Avenue a few months later as a result of the young minister. On the corner, there was a streetlight, and the homes had running water. Six months after the young girl received her blue dress, Gates Avenue had transformed into a neat street with respectable residents. After hearing about Gates Avenue, people in other locations started to plan their own “clean-up” operations. Since 1913, more than 7,000 towns and localities have organised initiatives to paint and repair homes in an effort to improve the lives of the residents.
No act of kindness is small. The teacher’s compassion for the girl and a simple act of kindness brought about such an impactful and positive change, not just in the girl’s life but in the lives of countless others.