One of my concerns when my daughter left for college was that I hadn’t shared with her every piece of wisdom she would need to venture out on her own in the big world. Okay, maybe not the big world, but the big college campus where she’d practice how to navigate the big world.
I’m providing her with a re-cap, in case she wasn’t listening or had forgotten everything I told her. My last column reminded her that not everyone will like her, and that’s okay. This column, Lesson 4, is a friendly reminder to be kind.
I get it. Right now you are the center – the master, really – of your own personal universe. Life is all about you: your classes, your friends, your bank account, your social life, your goals, and how you’re going to get (and pay for) that next meal which has absolutely no nutritional value. You feel the sun rises and sets around your every need and whim because, well, basically right now it does. Ah, the perks of being young.
Like I said, I get it. I’ve been there. You’re working hard to get to where you need go in life. You’re constantly updating that professional and personal checklist you have embedded in your brain. You worked hard to get to college, and now that you’re there you need to work hard to get to that next rung in the ladder of life. You need that focus, that extra perseverance, and that personal drive to succeed. Who has time to worry about anyone else?
Listen up. First, remember there is more to life than academic and professional success (that’s a whole other lesson). Second, while you’re clawing your way to wherever it is you need to go, look around you. Be aware. Remember everyone has a story, and in your own small way you’re part of that story. Every one of your gestures, words, emotions and reactions leaves a mark. Your behavior and your energy – good or bad – affects everyone around you.
My lesson to you is this: Be Kind. Be your kindest self when it’s hardest, because that’s when it’s most needed.
Your roommate having a bad day needs a sticky note on her mirror with words to make her smile. The professor students abhor needs acknowledgment. The maintenance man in the building who everyone sees, but no one notices, needs to be noticed.
That fellow student whose very existence feels toxic to you needs some friendly eye contact or a simple ‘hello.’ That person being ostracized or verbally bullied by the group, even if it’s not to her face? Open your mouth. It’s easy to quietly follow the group of people pickers; it takes moral fiber and courage to take the high road. Be the kind one.
You think I’m being trite, don’t you? Then think about that warm feeling you get when someone has offered you a morsel of kindness on the days you needed it most.
The guy from the Apple store who squeezed you in an already booked appointment calendar saved your (academic) life. The woman who served your coffee with an extra pump of flavor and a smile helped start your day on a good note. The mom – think Julia – who always had a warm smile and a kind word? Her kindness sure was contagious, wasn’t it? And think of that friend who stuck up for you in the eighth grade (yeah, I hated middle school, too). Her kindness probably felt like a cushioned safety net.
Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Kindness. It’s a small word with enormous impact. If you practice kindness every day – even as you’re clawing your way through – life will be good. I promise.