Killing them with kindness

We like to say that the events that happen to us in life are out of our control. We like to make excuses for our insensitivity and self-absorption. We get so wrapped up in the trappings and conflicts of our own life that we fail to even consider that other people are experiencing the same heartbreaks, frustrations and disappointments. We become so obsessed with personal success and forget that there are billions of other human beings on this planet all struggling on the same trying journey — life. There’s no real reason for our hostility to one another besides a remarkably narcissistic view of the world.

It is important to realize that nobody has a perfect life. Looking from the outside in, anybody’s life can seem simple and pleasant. But when you begin to dig beneath the surface, it doesn’t take long to see the cracks, to feel the pain that is so tightly woven into every moment of their existence.

Why do we refuse to help one another out? It’s as though we feel that helping others somehow hurts us, but nothing could be further from the truth. Anne Frank once said, “No one has ever become poor by giving.” Being charitable and kind only strengthens our character and nourishes our soul. Our life isn’t beyond our control; we hold the reins tightly in our hands. How people treat us is directly related to how we treat them, and the world is only as unfriendly as we make it. Let’s vow to make it a friendlier place. Change doesn’t have to have monumental reach in the beginning — in fact it rarely does. Often it starts at the smallest level, but gradually grows to be a global movement. So start small; start with those in your everyday life. Here are a few ways to make high school a warmer, more compassionate place.

Send a note of appreciation to a teacher:

Remind your teachers of how grateful you are for all that they have done for you. If a teacher has had a substantial impact on you, tell them. Let them know that they’ve made a difference in your life and played an integral role in shaping you into who you are. Kathryn and I each thought of a teacher who we felt had been invaluable to us and whose influence had had a dramatic effect on our lives, and wrote heartfelt, handwritten notes to them.

Send letters of thanks to your friends:

This falls along the same lines as the previous suggestion. Send letters to your closest, most treasured friends, reminding them of how valuable they are to you. Writing down all of the moments with them that you cherish, all of the ways that they have aided you in life and all the qualities within them that make you feel honored to have them as a friend reminds you of everything you have to be grateful for.

Make dinner for the community firefighters:

It’s easy to forget the importance of firefighters since we don’t interact with them every day. But they constantly work to help the community remain a safe place, and recognizing their contribution is necessary. They don’t only stop fires, they respond to most emergencies within their community and prove, every day, that their compassion knows no bounds. Kathryn and I brought dinner to the Westlake firefighters, and it was one of the most gratifying experiences. It was truly moving to give back to a group that does so much for our community.

Try to compliment 10 people each day:

Even the most seemingly confident, put-together people deal with insecurities. It’s an inevitable aspect of existence. A simple compliment has the power to change someone’s view of his or herself, so don’t be selective in who you give them to. Try not to focus too much on appearance-related compliments — character matters so much more. Kathryn and I have begun to compliment 10 people each day, with the plan to gradually increase the number.

Kathryn and I did many other things in Westlake to add kindness to the atmosphere, such as giving donuts to students and baking cookies for security personnel Oscar James in the Chap Court, but the steps you take to be a more compassionate person do not have to be food-related or materialistic in any way. Sometimes the smallest, most seemingly-inconsequential actions spark the greatest happiness within others. Don’t wait for others to be kind to you to do something kind in return. Know that you have the power to make the world a more caring place, and make use of this power.