The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The high value of kindness

There’s a certain memory I have from high school that I still think about from time to time. I don’t remember the day or the month, or even what season it was, but I can play the event back in my head like it happened yesterday.

It was lunchtime and I was sitting at my usual table with my friends, laughing and joking around like we always did. A couple tables down from us was a kid eating all by himself. He was a little overweight and dressed differently than most of the student body. He was the quiet type and kept to himself.

About halfway through the lunch period, another student thought it would be funny to harass the kid. He started teasing him about his weight and calling him names. He was slamming a food tray on the table, trying to scare him. The kid was petrified to the point that he was shaking. When I noticed this was going on, I quickly put an end to the situation, but the damage was done. He was humiliated and left the room with tears in his eyes.

Scenarios just like this one play out to certain degrees all around the world and are certainly not exclusive to lunchrooms. Personally, I don’t understand it.

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I consider myself very fortunate to have never had a serious problem with bullying. I’ve never had trouble making friends and getting along with others. I consider myself even more fortunate though, to have parents that instilled in me at a very young age the importance of kindness.

My mom always encouraged me to be the one that made the new kid feel accepted and include everyone at recess. She wanted me to be the one that made that extra effort to make the shy kid feel comfortable enough to come out of his shell.

My dad made it very clear that no matter how much money someone has, or what kind of clothes he wears does not mean he’s better than anyone else. These are lessons I took to heart. That’s the kind of person I want to be.

I’ve never found it funny to laugh at someone else’s expense. In fact, I think it’s pathetic and shows a real lack of intellect. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a master of trash talk. You don’t want to hear the things that come out of my mouth during a game of three on three, but there’s a big difference between a good natured ribbing among friends and the type of malicious behavior that went on in that lunch room.

I put a very high value on kindness, but here’s the thing: it’s like a muscle. The less you exercise it, the weaker it gets.

A couple of years ago, I went through a very dark period in my life. I wasn’t going to school because I couldn’t decide on a major and my personal life was a mess. I felt like I had no direction. I was depressed. I was bitter. I was angry. We all go through times like this in our lives. Things go south. We wouldn’t appreciate the peaks without the valleys. During this period though, I got away from who I am and the values I hold most dear. I became less of an optimist and more of a cynic. I no longer had that same kindness inside of me. I’m ashamed of that.

When you’re not paying attention, it can be easy to lose sight of these values, especially in times of crisis. Don’t let that happen. Work to be kind and considerate and respectful. In a world with so much pain and sadness, a friendly smile can go along way. Even as adults, we all desperately want to feel liked and included. Everyone has value, no matter how different they are from you.

Remember that, exercise it, and prioritize it. It’s important. Be the nice guy.

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The high value of kindness