I really am not in a Julie Andrews’ phase right now. I love her acting and her singing, but I have been skimming through Facebook and looking at pictures of my students and friends and responding to beautiful, little things that encourage and inspire me.
I wish that kindness didn’t come with the cost of vulnerability which people will then interpret as weakness. In trying to lift the spirits of people around me, I like to tell them what I have seen that is good about them. And, on several occasions, I have watched the person flush with embarrassment or start to tear-up because….I don’t know. I’m trying to be nice. I have no ulterior motive other than to help the person see the goodness that is already there within him/her.
Is it because this world thrives on destruction? Yesterday, one of my classes was having a philosophical discussion about the media and its role with violence and brutality and we talked about how the media is, to a degree, responsible for humanity’s inhumanity. I think about Jerry Springer and the fact that he thrives within the chaos of human unkindness, filming all the gloriousness of people fighting and hurting one another and screaming profanities at one another. I know that I can exercise my right to change the channel. Trust me. I have.
However, when does Springer exercise his morality to condemn such foolishness? I remember that one man featured or who appeared on the show had no legs. The man would walk around on his arms and seemed to be there to serve as nothing more than an accessory to a sorry-spectacle. From what I could tell (the show was on mute at the gym), the man wasn’t a part of the violence; he was merely an….oddity. I don’t like that word, but it seems like that was his only real purpose. I know that this is when I am supposed to do research to ensure that I am correct (ah, the joys of fact-checking).
Kindness has no cost other than if you are going to a store to purchase a gift or to do something nice. Kindness should never have a motive other than enriching the lives of other people or showing compassion to animals. Kindness should be simplistic and real and sincere and wonderful.
Today, I received a Facebook message from a former-student, Steven, who is buying me a ticket to see the 50 year anniversary showing of Sound of Music. I am honored (floored) and incredibly grateful. I have to admit that I don’t understand or see the impact I made on this young man. He was my student last year. I read his papers and gave him criticism. I tried to teach him. I wrote him letters of recommendation. I certainly wasn’t the queen of kindness.
But, he is the absolute trueness of kindness. He chose to reach out and extend a gift which has truly humbled me.
About seven months ago, I set up my classroom for the beginning of the year. For the last three years, I had been floating between classroom, something I loved. I enjoyed the freedom that a lack of a classroom gave me. At the same time, I was a constant tourist in other people’s areas and was constantly nervous that something was going to be destroyed while I was in the room (remember…clumsy person here).
So, last August, I opened up a box that held photographs of students who have graduated over the last fifteen years. Gently, I swept off the dust and detritus (glitter..lots of glitter) that had collected over their faces and entered into a winding labyrinth of memories. I felt like I had peeled back the cover of Pandora’s Box as I breathed out names and sniffled back tears as I realized all the good and joyful memories I had put into a green, plastic box and stored under a desk.
Names crept back from the corners of my cobwebbed mind. The sensation of running around a trailer while it snowed outside became more real than the summer heat beating down on the windows beside me. I could hear their voices, their laughter; I could feel the ghost-pressure of their arms as they hugged me one more time.
People frequently express their condolence that I work with teenagers.
Sure, they can be difficult to deal with. It’s hard to find the energy and enthusiasm to talk about subject-verb agreement or to keep them motivated when the year’s almost done.
But, at the same time, I have watched teenagers that the world has labelled as “spoiled” or “narcissistic” do incredible things with their time, their talents, their hard-earned money, and their desire to be kind.
So, if you want to feel sorry for me, go ahead. I really don’t know why. I’ll be over in the corner of my classroom, tucking more memories away into my green, plastic box while sharing a little kindness with my students.