Life Lessons: The Value of Kindness

sad-teenFitting in with the popular girls

Remember high school and how important it was to be popular? I do. Because of a desire to become popular, I learned kindness the hard way… by being unkind.

Every day at lunch, a group of popular girls would sit together at a table. Even though I wasn’t considered popular, one day I ended up at this table.  I was thrilled, and so eager to please that I pretended to be someone I wasn’t.

On that day, our conversation was about a new girl in school. Most of the girls weren’t speaking very kindly about her.  She was in one of my classes and I thought she was very nice, but wasn’t about to speak up on her behalf, and heaven forbid, STAND OUT from the group. Instead, I made a BIG mistake. I made fun of her too.

Then it happened. As I stood up to take my empty tray to the kitchen, I realized she was sitting right behind us. Our eyes met, and I will never forget her expression – the horror, shame, hurt, and anger – all there, naked for me to see.

For a second I was frozen, unable to break eye contact. She did it for me. She turned and walked away, leaving me standing in my own pool of shame.

Living with regrets…

Later, I realized this could easily happen to me, and probably had – I just didn’t know it. We weren’t that different from each other. Like me, she was shy, uncertain, and trying desperately to fit in. She didn’t need to be made fun of; she needed someone to reach out and offer kindness. How difficult could that be?

I deeply regretted my unkindness. I wish I could say that I turned everything around, apologized, and became fast friends with her. That didn’t happen. I don’t remember her name, but DO remember what I did. Life lessons don’t always result in happy endings.

On the other hand, because of my experience I became AWARE of the damage unkindness can do. Now I make the extra effort to reach out and offer kindness. I learned this lesson well, and I thank her for that. If the Universe is kind, what I write here will somehow serve as a much belated apology.

The poet, Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I keep this quote close to my heart.

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What life lessons have you learned?

I welcome you to share your life lessons: the ones you learned the hard way or any life lesson that you’d like to share.

27 comments on “Life Lessons: The Value of Kindness

  1. Mark says:

    I have a teenage daughter and I can see much second hand and yes even feel the challenges that my daughter faces. One thing that I have learned is that a patient, positive approach will usually work things out. A positive attitude is contagious! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Interestingly, I cannot relate to your particular story. I went to a small high school, and we didn’t have ‘popular’ kids. We all just got along. I thought maybe this was just my rosey perception of my high school, but I have since talked to other people I went to high school with and they all say the same thing. I guess our school experience was pretty unique, for which I am grateful.

    However, in grade 7, I did have a similar experience, in that one of my fellow students was hearing impaired. I was impatient with her and she called me on it. I went beet red and was horrified with myself, but immediately changed my ways. I am thankful that she called me on it. It was a valuable lesson.

  3. Sara says:

    @ Mark — Thanks you for your comment. Whether boy or girl, I think the teen years are challenging. There’s such a need to belong and yet, at the same time, be independent. Still, I envy you in some ways as both of my girls are grown and out of the house. We keep in contact, but I miss the daily escapades! Enjoy our time with your girls.

    @ Urban Panther — It sounds like you had a wonderful group in your high school. Perhaps being a small school helped to create that environment. My high school was very large. To give you an idea, my graduating class was slightly over 500 kids AND this was in 1970.

    Also, thanks for sharing your valuable lesson. The difficult ones tend to be ones that stay with us, don’t you think? I appreciate your comment.

  4. Carla says:

    Though I went to a small high school where we all got along – “popular” or not. I remember those experiences in Jr high and elementary school though. It was pretty painful being on the unpopular side.

  5. Sara says:

    Carla,

    I appreciate your thoughts. It can be painful on the unpopular side, but it also can strengthen a person. My wish is that respect for all people could be taught in our schools. We teach so many subjects, why not the love for oneself and others?

  6. FupDuckTV says:

    In my adolessence, I too dealt with some demons; some I handed out and some I received. I guess I’ve learned to just accept the past for what it is, life lessons going forward. I have seen the full spectrum of popularity. I’ve learned that I am ok with a circle of acquantences, a smaller circle of friends and an even small circle of close friends. Kinda like the Meet the Fawker Circle of Trust…

  7. Sara –
    Your post is VERY familiar to me.

    That’s probably the BIGGEST reason I decided to home school my three children – because of memories similar to your own.

    As a result, when my children come in contact with someone who tries to be something that they’re not – they are repulsed and horrified.

    Since we moved to Florida – they’ve been “allowed” to participate in sports at the public high school – and as such, they’ve been able to witness what you’ve described.

    What I didn’t expect – what is really incredible is that instead of being labeled “weird” by the kids in public school, they’ve been labeled “cool” because they really aren’t concerned with being “popular”.

    I wish someone had told me 25 years ago that the secret to success in high school was to be authentic!!! Then again, I wouldn’t have believed them!

    Kathy | Virtual Impaxs last blog post..The shit fight is beginning- should you join in?

  8. Oh, stories like this are so familiar and pain me so much! I think in many ways I was lucky to be in an “in between” crowd–I was generally accepted by the “popular” kids, but not enough a part of them to get sucked into the meanness. But it was happening, all around me.

    Now, as the mom of three girls in grades 3, 5 and 7, I can tell I’m bracing myself for them to get hurt in different ways at different times. Just anticipating it breaks my heart! I am grateful, though, that they are all known for their kindness and leadership skills, and I hope and pray they will be strong enough to not only refrain from hurting others, but also to stick up for others.

    Kristin T. (@kt_writes)s last blog post..How fast can you really add?

  9. Evelyn Lim says:

    I was never part of the “in” crowd; although in the University, some would say that I only hung out with the rich. I have always felt like a “misfit”. I tried desperately to fit in during periods in my life. I thought I was happy but now realize that happiness back then was all but an illusion. I am now finding that it is best to be myself. I don’t have to conform. I’m also fine on my own, if need be.

    Evelyn Lims last blog post..What The Movie Benjamin Button Taught Me About Time

  10. Evita says:

    Hi Sara!

    That is very humbling for you to share with us, but I have to tell you, your life lesson did turn out positive…

    Look at the person it made you today! Imagine that you did not see her face, you may have to this day made fun of people or remained distant and do things that you would not be proud of to fit in.

    Instead one moment had the power to change your life and it did – thanks to the choice you consciously made.

    Evitas last blog post..SkyWatch Friday – Sky Moments

  11. Tony Single says:

    High school was a very painful time for me. I was always the fringe dweller who couldn’t even fit in with the fringe dwellers. I was either ignored or ridiculed, and spent every lunch period in the library, feeling endless bitterness over my failure to connect. What I learned from this was the value of showing kindness, especially after the few scraps of kindness that eventually did come my way… so yeah, totally with you on the showing kindness thing – we all need it, no matter who we are. :)

    Tony Singles last blog post..Cool Cat Solomon [Trottersville #110]

  12. Mama Zen says:

    I had a similar experience when I was young, and it really changed me.

    Beautiful post!

    Mama Zens last blog post..Pretty!

  13. Jim says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience Sara. Sometimes it’s easier to be unkind when you’re trying to fit in. I regret the people I didn’t get to know when I was in school because they weren’t popular. Of course today they’re the ones who own Microsoft, Apple, and won the Nobel prize.

  14. Rosabel says:

    When time past, we have lots of life experiences that leave us different lessons that we learned from each of the experiences. What have done is done and nothing we can do about it. We shouldn’t regret, but learned from the mistakes that we have made and avoid making the same in future. We become wiser every day we grow.

    Rosabels last blog post..Be my Valentine!

  15. Sara says:

    @FupDuck — I like what you said about life lessons going forward. We all experience life lessons, but the hope is that we take what we’ve learned and move it forward. Thanks for sharing that! I’m not familiar with the Meet the Fawker Circle of Trust..care to share?

    @Kathy — I like what you said about your kids and I know you do a great job with them. It’s good to know that kids can be independent and authentic…it’s even better that this can be considered “cool!”

    @Kristin — I understand what you mean about your girls. I have a feeling, however, that your humor, caring and compassion will be the example your girls need to help them get through whatever difficulties they may experience.

    @Evelyn Lim — I LOVE your words, “I thought I was happy but now realize that happiness back then was all but an illusion. I am now finding that it is best to be myself. I don’t have to conform. I’m also fine on my own, if need be.” I wish more adolescents could hear this message over and over again!! Thanks for sharing.

    @Evita — THANKS…I feel so affirmed by your words. And you are so right. I loved your closing line, “Instead one moment had the power to change your life and it did – thanks to the choice you consciously made.” I think this is true of all of us. Life lessons are about the choice we make.

    @Tony Single — The fact that you learned to show kindness, even though it wasn’t shown to you, is quite a tribute to who you are. Kindness begets kindness.

    @Mama Zen — Thank you for sharing. It was my hope in writing this post that people would remember their own life lessons.

    @Jim — You really made me laugh…it is true that many people in high school that we considered “geeks” turned out to just be “ahead of their times.” That’s all the more reason to be kind.

    @Rosabel — I like these words, “We become wiser every day we grow.” What a wonderful thing to say. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Girl on Top says:

    What a great reminder! We all forget that everyone just wants to belong.

    I definitely try my best to treat others how I want to be treated.

    Girl on Tops last blog post..Chopping It Off

  17. Davina says:

    Hi Sara. Your reaction clearly shows that you have a big heart and didn’t mean what you had said about that girl.

    I remember my high school days. They were not the best ones of my life because I was in the “unpopular crowd”. There were about 4 of us who would sit together in the library on spares. Now, looking back I don’t think it was because there was anything really wrong with us. We were just a minority. We were the quiet types that society tends to look down on because there are fewer numbers of us.

    Davinas last blog post..Ebook Launch: The Quote Effect Arrives

  18. Sara says:

    @Girl on Top — Thanks for sharing. You’ve definitely got the idea by treating others how you want to be treated! That’s one of the best life lessons!

    @ Dvaina — Thank you for your nice comment. I thing that time was a Grinch moment…and my heart DID grow a bit bigger!

    The quiet types often grow up to do wonderful things, like THE QUOTE EFFECT!!!

  19. Mark Salinas says:

    I hope your weekend was fantastic! :)

  20. Sara says:

    @Mark — Thanks for asking…it was great. I celebrated Valentine’s Day by dancing most of the night away and I loved it!

  21. Sara says:

    @Davina — OOPS…I do know how to spell your name!

  22. Not only do I remember high school, but these types of situations still seem to haunt me. I think we all realize how immature we were at the time, but it’s still something that we aren’t proud of.

    I learned a lot about kindness through Tae Kwon Do. You would think kicking and punching would be unkind, but we were nice to each other outside the ring. That taught me a lot about people, and learning to understand and accept others.

  23. Sara says:

    Nathalie — While I haven’t learned Tae Kwon Do myself, I have friends who practice it and they all say the same thing as you. I suppose because your kicking and punching isn’t done in anger, you are sharing something with the other students…not taking something away. Thanks for your comment :~)

  24. Currently we’re on a summer vacation but on June 8, classes will start and I’m officially a 2nd year Student. But we never have to worry about popularity. Yes, there are the popular ones-Those who are the “crush ng bayan”,The pretty and handsome ones, those who belong to the Top Ten(which includes me), those who always joins contests(usually the one who always win) and the Student Leaders. But that doesn’t really matter to us because the most important thing is Friendship, Kindness etc. The only problem is because sometimes what matters most is the grade rather than friendship. But others do their best to make everything peaceful. And I like your article about fitting in. It’s nice:)

    • Sara says:

      @ Solana — One thing I’ve loved about the comments to this post is that things seem to have changed since I was in high school…and for the better. I think friendship and kindness should be more important than popularity. It’s also interesting what you said about grades being more important than friendship. In today’s world, it’s become much more important to make the grades than it used to be in my time…and I think this is a good thing. Good luck with your classes:~)

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