Throw Kindness Like Confetti

I love the school my daughter is lucky enough attend.  I made the most of my public education, and I am thankful for it.  But traversing the colorful, imaginative halls of her world I have found myself wishing I could have been as fortunate.  The school is passionate about children and learning.  It practices our faith; it is cheerful, inclusive, unpretentious, and —- most of all, kind.  I have discovered it is easy to be kind with one’s own social class, or with someone who holds the same beliefs.  More difficult I have found is showing kindness to one who does not like you for whatever reason, or who does not accept you, or who deems themself better than you.  From the time my child could understand I have told her what my father told me:  there will always be someone smarter than you, better looking than you, or greater than you in some skill.  And, should you happen to be the very best in all of those things, there will always be someone younger than you.  My father did not say this to discourage me — rather, he said it to strengthen me.  A highly competitive kid, I made the Honor Roll, won the school Spelling Bee, got every principal’s award, and gold medaled in both statewide singing and writing competitions.  I was also on the drill team, which was a huge deal in high school.  Still all the kids made fun of me for wearing the same clothes, and an adult even once joked about my father’s car in my presence.  I was silently labeled unfair things like being “loose” simply because we lived in an apartment.  It was my father who taught me that I define myself.  I remember asking him once why he wasn’t angry:  angry with the police for continually pulling my dark-skinned father over and always letting him go after “just checking;” angry that we could never seem to get ahead despite all his hard work and integrity; angry that people routinely referred to him as “Chief.”  He turned his piercing dark blue eyes on me and softly told me that no matter what, we could always choose to be kind.  There was no bitterness in him and in that moment I discovered how he had managed to rise above it all.  He chose not to judge and simply to be kind.  I was once hurt very badly by a boy I dated for a summer.  He was from our church and I felt his parents thought I was trying to better myself financially by going out with him.  We lived in an apartment in a very poor part of town and they had a house in the well-to-do part.  I just thought he was impossibly handsome and so good.  I think they politely tolerated me, biding their time until their son was in college.  I had already started community college and knew what my academic goals were; I had known for years actually.  I can still remember the pitying look on their faces when I proudly told them I’d be attending SMU in the future.  Their son was off to an expensive private college in state and it was “suggested” he date sorority girls.  (Translation — girls with money.)  I did not want to believe it and I went with my parents to see him when he was away at university.  It was like he was shocked to see me although he had invited me.  I was absolutely crushed.  What I would learn when I was accepted into SMU, was that in fact is was more often the rich who sought the same for monetary gain, rather than the poor supposedly on the hunt for money.  I know no one will believe this, but a few years later in the same university town where I got my heart broken I noticed a girl who looked so much like me it was quite startling.  She actually approached me and asked if my name was Laura.  It wasn’t a question, really; it was more of a statement.  Surprised, I said yes and we wound up talking for several minutes.  She asked me if I knew this guy (the one from my church) and I replied I did.  She then told me the guy dated her for awhile but that he repeatedly called her by my name.  I went from being instantly jealous to feeling very sorry for her.  I think she felt the same way about me.  So what is kindness, really?  Does it falsely hide under the guise of politeness?  I submit that true kindness does not feign anything.  I met my future husband because he did not know how to change the flat tire on his car.  After I replaced it for him he asked if he could buy me an ice cream cone.  He was the most handsome man I had ever met — but his kindness is what got me.  I have repeatedly told my daughter that kindness is the most important trait one can possess.  Money can come and go, looks may fade; but kindness remains.  This year her school has been practicing kindness.  When I happened upon this shirt I knew it would be perfect for her “free dress” day during kindness week.  Bob Goff is the American author of the New York Times best seller “Love Does.”  He is quoted as having said, “Throw kindness around like confetti.”  Kindness is something that must be practiced; it does not always come easy.  But our world would definitely be better if we all strove to throw kindness like confetti.


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