Sophia Steffel was only with her Kalida family for six weeks, but in that short period of time, the infant daughter of Nathen and Emily Steffel provided the world with a special gift. She reminded us about the power of a good deed.
Sophia lived her brief life in hospitals in Columbus and Cincinnati with breathing tubes in her tiny mouth and nose and a feeding tube attached to her hand. She suffered from complications of a tumor in her liver and awaited a transplant when she passed away July 10.
Shortly after her death, Nathen Steffel posted Sophia’s photo on the Internet site, Reddit.com. It was taken during one of the few times his little girl had her eyes open and was accompanied with the following note: “My daughter recently passed away after a long battle in the children’s hospital. She was in the hospital her whole life, and we were never able to get a photo without all her tubes. Can someone remove the tubes?”
What happened next turned out to be Sophia’s gift.
Strangers from around the world began reaching out to the Steffel family. Since Monday, photographs with the tubes removed along with paintings, blankets and other gifts have been arriving at the Steffel’s home, all with the hope that the memento will help comfort mom, dad and Sophia’s two brothers, Tristan, 5, and Owen, 3.
The gifts were about people saying “I care,” about putting one’s own problems aside to help someone you’ll never know or meet.
They were about doing what’s right.
“I was having a bad day when I saw this guy asking for a photo. I just started painting,” David Valdez, a college student from New Braunfels, Texas, told the Associated Press. “It brought me some sort of sense of relief to help someone out.”
By Thursday, the story was being shared in newspapers around the world, as well as TV networks such as CNN and ABC. One of the catalysts for the widespread media coverage was an Associated Press story written by John Seewer, who grew up in St. Marys.
That image of Sophia – her eyes wide open and appearing to be staring right at the camera, minus the tubes and bandages — will be remembered by many of us for a long time.
The love it inspired among total strangers made our world a better place on a bright, sun-shiny summer’s day in July.