One small act of kindness can bring so much joy to both the person giving and to the person receiving. Whether it’s smiling at a stranger on the street or randomly sending flowers and a card as a thank you to someone from our past, we can instantly feel happier in both our mind and heart. Sometimes we don’t know just how much of an impact someone makes on our lives and on our success until several years later. Even if we have not seen or have talked to that person in many years, he or she can still be present with us wherever our life journey takes us.
Sometimes we don’t know just how much of an impact someone makes on our lives and on our success until several years later
I graduated high school 11 years ago, but I still think about two of my teachers frequently. I had both of these teachers for both semesters of my freshman and senior years and for one class during my junior year of high school so they watched me grow over those four years. They both showed me that I am capable of more than I thought and challenged me so I could succeed. Throughout my years in college and whenever I was having a hard time, I would think of what they would tell me and know that they would be cheering for me. They are both a big reason why I have come this far in school and now that I graduated with my Master’s degree, I gave back by surprising them with a small thank you and I know that they will remember it forever. Little gestures like this that can help us heal our hearts, bring us joy, and make us genuinely happier.
So today, smile at a stranger, send an email to someone from your past, or pick another act of kindness that you feel good about such as paying for someone’s order at the coffee shop or asking a stranger how their day has been. Know that the other person greatly appreciates the gesture even if he or she doesn’t express it.
Gratitude is something we should think about more often. The most simple way to start practicing gratitude is to journal before going to sleep and writing down 3-5 things we are grateful for in our day. The challenge is to write down something new each time. The jewelry company Alex and Ani uses a symbol called “path of life” on many of their pieces of jewelry. This symbol represents strength, motivation, and knowledge and they explain,
“Life is a journey. We each choose our own path and these choices create our future. Every twist, turn, and miraculous detour has its purpose. The PATH OF LIFE captures the essence of life’s odyssey and, with its knotted design, reminds us that we are all connected”– Alex and Ani
This symbolism could not be more fitting for the last couple of weeks because graduating with my Master’s degree was a major milestone. Strength, motivation, and knowledge are three qualities that are needed to succeed in any part of life. We need strength to make the decision to pursue a dream, motivation to get through challenging times, and we gain knowledge through every part of the journey. The path of life shows us that each of our journeys are unique and while our directions may not be straightforward as the knotted design indicates, we eventually discover the fruits of our hard work. Every twist and turn as Alex and Ani share allows us to meet new people and experience new experiences that help guide us in our journey, want to see us succeed, and make us into the incredible and unique individuals we are today. Today, I am grateful for all of the experiences that led me to this day and for all of the people from far in my past and from now in my present who made this happen. A few days ago, I sent flowers and a card to a high school teacher who was my mentor, my cheerleader, and someone who I still think of frequently to this day 11 years later. You may not realize in 10 years that someone you meet today or something you experience today will change your life. Be grateful for every moment of every day and for the people who shape our lives.
In high school, I didn’t go to parties, didn’t drink like my peers, and often sat alone at lunch when one of my few close friends didn’t have the same lunch period. Even to this day, I have never been drunk and have never been to bars or wild parties. I have no desire to experience these things because it does not feel right for me and makes me uncomfortable. I do enjoy sharing a glass of wine with my mom at dinner on a special occasion but alcohol does not make me feel good and I choose to have some to enjoy with my food, not to fit in or to act socially acceptable. Drinking is just not something that I think about. After Thanksgiving 2017, I went to my 10 year high school reunion alone. About an hour before leaving, I started panicking and was about to chicken out, but my older sister gave me a pep talk and encouraged me to go. She advised me to get a drink and just hold it in my hand so that people would come up to me and so would fit in with everyone else. When I got to the venue, I got a glass of water and had fun seeing everyone while everyone else started getting drunk or walked in already drunk. Even though I didn’t follow the advice of my sister, I still felt uncomfortable when the party started to get loud (I also didn’t feel ashamed at all that my Dad dropped me off and picked me up because the party was in an unsafe neighborhood).
“I wish I could tell my younger self to care less about what other people think because their beliefs and opinions don’t make me any less of a person. What I keep reminding myself is that if I had gone back to my old school, I would have never met some of the most influential people in my life who contributed to who I am today”
When I was younger, I was made fun of for not drinking and for not wanting to do things that typical teenagers do. Growing up, I had a hard time fitting in with my peers. They recognized that something was different about me. I was teased about my “big” forehead and bullied for reasons I cannot even imagine. What made making lifelong friends difficult was that I changed schools a couple of times. After fourth grade, my mom and dad took me out of my school and enrolled me in another small school where I would get more assistance with learning. I was at this school for 5th, 6th, and 7th grade (the school went through 8th) when I finally went to my parents and said that I either wanted to go back to my old school or go to the public school where I knew a lot of people. I started here in 8th grade and graduated from this school. Having learning style differences was difficult and knowing that many of peers knew about this made me uncomfortable. I did not like taking tests with extended time because that meant taking it somewhere else. Whenever I was not in class for a test, I would get the sarcastic question from classmates, “where were you?” Of course I did not want to say that I was taking the test somewhere else because it always led to automatic judgement. I wish I could tell my younger self to care less about what other people think because their beliefs and opinions don’t make me any less of a person. What I keep reminding myself is that if I had gone back to my old school, I would have never met some of the most influential people in my life who contributed to who I am today. I have grown to appreciate my different experiences. The little girl in the picture was on her way to the first day of kindergarten not knowing where life would take her but I would tell that girl to trust the journey and appreciate each person and experience that helps her grow into the person she is today.