The other day I was at the gym coaching one of my little competitive tumbling teams. This team likes to give me grief every now and then and on this particular night they were having an especially difficult time.
They were having a really hard time listening to and following directions. Their attitudes were out the window and every few minutes I had another kid in tears for menial reasons. And as every minute passed I felt my blood boil more as I started to slip into what I call “strict coach mode.” Pretty soon everything they did made me mad and I stopped being their friend and started being their dictator.
I had about had it.
It was at this point that one of my seven year old students flopped on the ground wailing about how he couldn’t do a back handspring the way he wanted to as tears streamed down his face. This was probably the fifth tear episode from the class and the second one from him in about 20 minutes.
I swallowed everything inside of me that wanted to yell at him and say “get up. you’re fine. stop crying.” and I pulled him aside and sat him down on the edge of the tumbling floor. I knelt down on his level and put my hands on his knees and said “buddy… how come everything is making us so upset today?”
I expected to him wail back at me something about me and my coaching. I expected him to complain about how he didn’t like what I was making him do or something along those lines.
His response shocked me.
He looked up at me with tears pooling from his eyes and said “I got in a fight with my mom on the before tumbling today. She was yelling at me and it hurt my feelings. I just can’t stop thinking about it.”
It had nothing to do with back handsprings, or tumbling, or my coaching. It had everything to do with what this little boy was experiencing in his life.
So I asked him to tell me more. I just sat and listened and didn’t say anything. I just let him talk. After a few minutes of him telling me this story he wiped away the tears and I asked him if he felt better. He nodded and I said “should we get up and try our back handsprings again?” and sure enough he popped right up and did his back handsprings perfectly.
So often in our lives we interact with people without really taking the time to know what’s really going on behind the curtain. We judge them for the things they say or do and we don’t take into consideration the fact that there might be more to it than meets the eye. And even worse, we interpret their actions to have something to do with us. As if they don’t like us or they have a problem with us, when in reality, most of the time it has nothing to do with us.
There is a quote that keeps coming to my head every time I think about this experience that says
“Be Kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” -Plato.
Isn’t this just the truest statement?
So since then I’ve made an effort to take this philosophy into the other classes I teach. I’ve made an effort to take the time to talk to each child during class to ask them about school and their families and different parts of their lives. I’ve been amazed at how much just a little kindness makes in someones life. I’ve been so surprised by how the children have responded to this small gesture of listening. During one of my classes this week one of my small quiet girls ran up to me and gave me the biggest hug and whispered “we are going to be best friends, okay?” I know she never would have done that had I not taken the time to show her I wanted to be her friend first.
And I’ve also noticed how much of a difference the little kind acts of others have made in my own life. I’ve noticed myself become physically happier when I walk into work and my boss takes the time to say hi to me, or when I walk into one of my school classes and the girl sitting next to me takes the time to ask me how my weekend was, or when the random friend snapchats me to ask me how I’m doing because he hasn’t heard from me in a while. All of these things have made such an impact on my life and sometimes I don’t even notice it.
Kindness is real. You might not be able to change the world, but you have the power to change someones world with just one small act of kindness.
So there’s some food for thought for your day today. Take the a minute to consider the people in your life and your current relationship you have with them. Are you taking the time to listen to their stories? Are you talking the time to be kind to them? Because I promise you, it will make a world of difference.
My friends, don’t forget to be kind today.