I had an experience tonight that I want to share. I do so only in the hopes to perpetuate the idea that love and kindness can make an impact in the world. There seems to be so much ridicule in our day and age, to be mean to others can often be seen as witty or a form of entertainment. Why do we seek to make ourselves feel better by hurting another? I don’t know how we got there but I do know the power is in each of us to change that pattern, to make the lives of those we come in contact with brighter and better because we choose kindness not hated.
I went for a walk tonight. Getting healthy and losing weight has been a battle I have waged since high school. I am sensitive about this battle and often I am my worst enemy. When I am home in Morgan I love to walk on Old Highway Road; there are just enough hills to make it interesting and the view is amazing. My one fear has always been the many cars that pass that way. My fear is not of getting hit by a car but being judged by the people in it. I grew up experiencing much unkindness about my being overweight. I became hyper sensitive to those around me and believed that if one person disliked me for that then all people did. I remember the first time I decided to walk that particular road and the courage it took to not turn around, to keep going forward.
I felt that need for courage tonight as, midway through my walk, a car of young boys drove by and slowed down. They laughed and pointed and made fun of me for being overweight. They thought themselves clever and sped off laughing and celebrating their ability to point out the perceived fault of another. I felt embarrassed and thought back to all the times in my life that I allowed those similar acts of unkindness to define who I was. For a moment I wanted to turn around, to give up and stop something I loved for fear that more of the same unkindness must surely be around the corner.
Luckily those thoughts only lasted for a moment. Soon I was thinking about how hard I had worked to get where I was and how much more work there was left to do. I thought about how foolish it would be to let the words and actions of others I didn’t even know stop my course. I also thought of all the great people who have shown me kindness and encouraged me in all stages of my life. I thought about a man from my parent’s ward, Jerry Stout, who always seems to drive by when I am walking – he waves and honks and gives me a thumbs up and it keeps me going. I thought about great teachers, leaders and friends who choose to look past my weaknesses and see the best in me and what I can become. I thought about the truthfulness in this quote from Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin:
“Kindness is the essence of greatness and the fundamental characteristic of the noblest men and women I have known. Kindness is a passport that opens doors and fashions friends. It softens hearts and molds relationships that can last lifetimes.”
The world needs greatness in the form of kindness more than almost anything else. Think of the lives that could be blessed and the changes that would come if we were all a little nicer to each other. I think of the poor kids who commit suicide because of bullying; I think of the acts of racial prejudice that divide communities and countries because differences are focused on instead of what is shared; I think of the emotional and mental scars that children carry into adulthood because of constant negativity from parents or friends. It is often thought and said that one person cannot make a difference, the ripple effect of one small stone in a pond as big as the world would be miniscule so don’t even try - but that thought, my friends, is a lie; don’t believe it, don’t teach your children it and don’t let it be spread and shared around you without standing up to it.
So, tonight or tomorrow or a week from now, if there is the choice between being unkind and breaking someone down or building another up and showing kindness – choose kindness. See the good in others and yourself and I promise change can come. I have seen it in my life and through the lives of others – one person makes a difference, one person saves lives. I challenge myself as much as others. If there is someone who has experiences unkindness at my hand, please accept my deepest apologies and know that I will try the rest of my life to make it up to you by choosing kindness.
Do something good for another; you will never know what can come of it . . .