Going the extra smile

Growing up, my parents had always taught me to be kind to others and treat them with respect and kindness. For most of my life, I’d assumed that other people had been taught the concept of common courtesy by their parents, too. I could not have been more wrong.

Andrew Keith

I was waiting in the locker room, just waiting for the bell to ring, listening to the ambient conversation meandering over the tops of the lockers. I couldn’t believe how rude and hateful some people were; insult after insult sullied the air.

My commute between classes has become so familiar: a four-minute ritual practiced every 50 minutes. It is a sobering experience that’s both insightful and saddening. The most telling part of my interclass commute is the moment I lock eyes with a fellow student passing. For that fleeting instant when our eyes lock, the other person is completely genuine, all assumptions forgotten. If the eyes are the path to the soul, a second’s worth of eye contact tells far more than I could ever imagine.

Passing others in the hallway, I see the freshman who walks awkwardly, wondering where he fits in, if he even does. I see the girl who always clutches her books tight, afraid to let anyone close. And I see the clumsy boy, lacking any self-confidence whatsoever. Sometimes I forget that I was once in their shoes, just as awkward, afraid and insecure as they are. All they need is the kindness of someone else, someone to open the door for them, someone to smile back and someone to be a friend.

We all get caught up in our own little “bubble,” forgetting that life exists outside of what happens around us. When I lived in my own little world, I was oblivious to how other people felt; I forgot that one unkind word could make or break someone else’s day. Now that graduation is near, I’ve learned that life is too short to spend your days living in your own bubble and wasting time being rude and spiteful.

We have to realize that our bubbles encompass more than just us, but those around us as well. So while we’re sharing this space, why not be kind to those around you? If you’re lucky, they might just be kind right back.