Kindness Matters

January 8, 2015


Kindness Matters

Several years ago a good friend gave me this pretty, framed needlework saying. I loved it immediately. A sucker for signs and sentiment, this one hit it out of the park.

I hung it in my entryway to greet guests and remind them of this simple truth when they walked through the door. I hung it there so my children would see it on the way out to the bus each morning, hoping they would carry it with them throughout their day.

That piece has remained in the same spot for over a decade. Why? Two words, kindness matters, so powerful, so true and yet, so easily forgotten.

I am that girl who smiles at everyone. I don't know you, but we've made eye contact, why not smile? Most times people smile back...of course, there are a lot of cranky people out there, too. I don't let that bother me, it is what it is. Perhaps there's a reason they didn't return the grin. Perhaps not.  I don't smile or respond with bless you, when someone near me sneezes, for approval, I just do it. It's instinctual.

It's like saying please or thank you for your help when I am in the checkout lane or ordering at a restaurant. I have worked retail and been a waitress and sometimes people are not nice, just because you are on the other side of that register. I can't be that person. If I am having a bad day, that's not your fault (generally) and kindness matters.

I try to put myself in another person's shoes, whenever I am interacting~ it's how I was raised, in the classic do unto others style.

Although, I received my most memorable lesson on kindness outside the home.

When I was in the sixth grade, my dad passed away. He had cancer and was sick for several months. My home life was a mess. My two older sisters had been recently married and moved out, so our very full house, became very quiet in a very short period of time.

One day, about a week after my dad died, I was at school and just couldn't hold it together anymore. I cried. I just lost it. The teacher called me to her desk. She was a grandmotherly type, but also very stern.

I sort of remember thinking she was going to say something nice or give me a hug or at least a tissue. I was embarrassed, twelve is a tenuous time in the social life of a child. My family had just fallen apart, I was scared, lonely and waiting for some salvation, some comfort, something.

What I got, was yelled at.

She told me in no uncertain terms that school was not the place for crying. I needed to stop immediately and get back to work. Her comments were loud, pointed and cutting. It was a cruel interaction.

I am 46 years old and I remember that moment and the physical feeling of humiliation and sadness more than I remember anything else from my K-12 school days...and there were a lot of very good days, a lot, but for some reason that cold interaction sticks. I look back on that day and think to myself what a wasted opportunity for us both.

My world had just been turned upside down and school could've been the one place of stability and safety. Instead, it became a place I loathed to go. A simple kind gesture on her part could've made such a difference in the life of an unbelievably upset little girl. It really wouldn't have taken much either, she could have wordlessly held my hand or simply said, "I'm sorry," or "I know."

Years later, as an elementary school teacher myself, that memory loomed large and every single day, no matter whether I was teaching math, reprimanding poor behavior or reminding students to take their finger out of their nose and use a tissue, you can bet I was kind. It was an overriding rule in my classroom and I led students by example, because you know what, kindness matters.

So, not everyone smiles back, so what?

I smile and that's all that matters to me.



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69 comments:

  1. Kim, my mind is reeling from the story of your 6th grade teacher and her failure to not only comfort a hurting child, but add to her pain. I can't even begin to think what she thought she would accomplish with her response to your obvious need. I see the grace of God in your life, Kim. You experienced a traumatic event with the loss of your daddy at such a tender age and then your teacher's horrid treatment soon after, yet it hasn't defined you. You are a kind and compassionate woman, able to give love to others and receive it yourself. Very inspiring. Hugs, Nancy

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  2. Thank you, Nancy...and I was right, there is tons of kindness in the world. I just have to read your lovely comments to see it! I think that experience reinforced the lesson of kindness that my mom instilled in us all. I would never want to be the cause of someone's pain. I appreciate your warm words, as always. xo

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  3. Kim, what a story of a teacher who could have made a difference... I'm sorry such a thing happened to you. Made me cry. I will send a copy to an elementay teacher friend of mine in case he has one of those days where his patience runs low.

    And speaking of kindness, that was so kind of you for a little shout out about something so simple as a Christmas card! That reminds me, I need to set up that little vignette again now that Christmas is over.

    And thanks for being my very favorite DIY blog in the whole of the world (wide web)! Such easy talent, such kindness, such hope for good days! May God continue to bless you with a thankful and kind heart!

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  4. Nancy, Thank you for the super lovely comment. I am very grateful for your kindness all over again and blushing this time, as well!! Your pretty card sits in our family room, where it can be viewed by all, and is truly a testament to the kindness of others. :)

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  5. OH.MY.GOODNESS!!! You are such an amazing woman for focusing on the positive, and using this horrific example as a reminder of how NOT to be! I just cannot IMAGINE what she was thinking?!! It truly breaks my heart for your 12 year old self!

    For what it's worth, it's refreshing to know someone who stands behind their words. Though I haven't known you long, everything that I have experienced with and from you has been nothing but kindness. I'm so happy to have met you! =)

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  6. Rachel, thank you so much, I am touched by your words and equally grateful to have met you! :) As a former teacher and a mother myself, I cannot imagine what she was thinking. She was probably just not thinking at that moment. Like I said, people have all sorts of reasons for their behavior. I actually don't begrudge her at all. While it was a horrible moment in time, it was a great life lesson! It was just really bad timing!

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  7. Kindness Matters . . .
    I felt sad(angry too) to think a teacher (or anyone) would treat someone with such harsh words and lack of empathy! Having been a teacher myself, I can't imagine that kind of behavior.
    I love your wall piece and that it has remained central for others to see.
    Kindness Matters most certainly remains CENTRAL within you . . .
    You are a keeper . . .

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  8. You have a great mother, Kim. Pleases give her a gentle hug for me. xo

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  9. This needlework is so pretty and no wonder it stayed where you originally hung it.

    A lovely post though I am just astounded at that teacher. Nowadays if you'd gone home and told your mom what the teacher did, she'd have posted it on Facebook, a bazillion people would have shared it, the local news would pick it up, and that teacher would be reprimanded and embarrassed.

    A nice fantasy for the little girl inside you :)

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  10. Your right, kindness does matter! I too smile at strangers and try always to say please and thank you. I remember once I got a warning ticket for stopping in an intersection where traffic seemed to pile up so the police were out giving warning tickets saying next time it will be a real ticket. Well, when the officer handed me the ticket I automatically said., "thank you" because he was handing me something. Well he went ballistic yelling this is a ticket lady. If you think it's a gift let's see what you do with the real thing. He gave me the real thing and now out of meanness I said, "thank you!" He was so mad!

    I am happy to hear what a kind hearted teacher you are and that you lead by example. Thank you for raising our kids well. They are our future and maybe the world be be a little kinder because of you!

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  11. Thanks Lynne! :) I would like to say that it was a completely isolated incident, but my kids have come home with the most horrible stories from school. I think people (including teachers) sometimes say things and don't realize just how cutting they can be.

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  12. Thank you Nancy...hug delivered! :)

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  13. Isn't the needlework amazing, Deb? I have always wanted to replicate the sign and give it back to my friend. Oh well, maybe someday! ;)

    Today, it would be different for sure...You know it's funny, at the time, I did not tell my mom about what happened. She was a 48 year old widow who was suffering so, I just didn't want to add to her troubles. Of course, years later when I did share, she went all crazy mamma bear about it. By then I was in my twenties, but it was nice to see her get all maternal!!

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  14. Oh! That's a terrible story, Gigi!! Talk about someone having a bad day ~ you and the cop! Isn't it awful when a simple thank you can be taken the wrong way? You know, I totally would've said thank you out of habit and respect. I'm sorry you didn't get the same in return.

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  15. Gosh - you are so right. Kindness does matter. It is stunning to see how strangers respond to kindness. Sometimes it strikes me that they are so blown away by me being nice to them... and I think that's kind of a sad statement of our society. Nobody EXPECTS any kindness anymore, and the smallest thing can really make such a huge difference. I'm so sorry for the early loss of your father, and for that bad experience in your youth. One benefit? It has made you the lovely person you are today. xo Thanks for sharing with us Kim!

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  16. I agree with you, Sally, most people do not expect kindness and it takes them back a bit when they get it. That's ok...I like being the one to surprise them! ;) Thanks for the visit and for weighing in!

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  17. So many teachers with so little emotional intelligence...never mind the intellectual kind! Keep smiling: another saying I keep close: a child may form its whole idea of the world from what you do today. With best wishes from a retired schoolteacher!!

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  18. Kim,
    Kindness does matter. Loved that you shared your story of when you lost your dad and how your teacher treated you. Maybe in some ways this was a blessing in life for you. As horrible as she made you feel that day it made you into the women you are now and the wonderful teacher you became. So it was a blessing really. You learned that day that would have made a big difference and that kindness does matter and you lived your life accordingly. You now have enriched so many children with what you learned so long ago with turning that around and remember that day vividly. So happy you learned that Kindness Matters and you pass that on.
    Hugs because they matter too,
    Kris

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  19. In a moment of charity and kindness I was thinking that perhaps that the teacher was very uncomfortable and feeling awkward, not knowing how to comfort a child in your situation and went home at the end of the day as devastated as you for adding to your pain. I hope that is the case but I am guessing not. Glad it didn't affect your ability to be kind.

    Lorri

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  20. Hi Kim,

    I never knew that story and am so sorry you had to deal with that insensitive teacher at such a difficult time. I have always enforced manners with my boys. They always say please and thank you, hold doors for people and look someone in the eye and shake their hand when meeting them. People really seem to notice and my husband and I received many compliments on how nice our boys were when they were younger. So people do really notice kindness and to a mom of boys it makes me both happy and proud. I haven't been able to teach them how to be nice to each other yet though! They tell me it's a guy thing :)

    xoxo Jen

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  21. Jen, you did a great job with your amazing young men and should be very proud. It's actually a pretty rare thing today to run across such behavior and it really stands out when displayed. I cannot believe how many kids enter my house and just walk on by, they do not stop to say hello, do not make eye contact or take the time to say "thanks for having me." When it does happen I am always appreciative and tell their parents! Oh and the nice to your sibling thing...yeah, not just a guy thing. Trust me! ;) xxoo

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  22. Hi Lorri. I would like the think the same thing, too. As a adult I don't view her harshly, she was just doing the best she could in that moment, I guess. We all have had interactions we wish we could redo or maybe that was the best she could do, like you said. Either way, lesson learned! :)

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  23. Thanks for weighing in Kris. I agree, what happened that day became part of puzzle that shaped me into who I am today. It also helped to shape me as a teacher and laid an excellent foundation for the way I would treat my own students...and thanks for the hugs! You're right, they do matter!! :)

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  24. Linda, thank you so much for the comment. There are so many fabulous instructors out there, people who really enrich the lives of their students every day. Unfortunately, we tend to remember the other ones more. I love that saying...have to keep that one close! I bet your classroom was a wonderful place to be! :)

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  25. Thank you for sharing, Kim. Your story made me shiver reading it. What an awful thing for a teacher to do.
    Your attitude for going out into this world is amazing and true inspiration to live positive.

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  26. Thank you, Carla. I guess things happen for a reason and they all play a role in making us who we grow to be. Thanks for the lovely words. :)

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  27. Kim, my condolences on the loss of your father, at such a dear age. Life is so difficult as it is growing up, and here you are now, such a lovely woman. Some people don't belong in early childhood education. Words hurt, I know that firsthand, as a child of an abusive mother. Try to release yourself from this painful memory and replace it another kinder one. I agree, that kindness matters. Your friend, Marcy

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  28. Thank you for your sweet words and sharing your own experience. I am sorry for your difficult times. It sounds as if you have been able to replace painful memories with kinder ones, perhaps I will try. Thank you again for the thoughtful comment, Marcy. I hope you have a cozy evening! :)

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  29. Kindness matters - it matters more than many other things that we value. It certainly matters more than being right, or being smart or being beautiful or crafty or any of those other things we all strive for. It sounds like you have been able to exorcise that horrid teacher's unkindness over the years, with acts of kindness of your own. Still, it is a memory that still brings pain.

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  30. I don't know about my classroom being wonderful: I just didn't want any kid to dread coming to it! And I was really helped by the youngsters themselves:after all,we were all in it together!

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  31. Dearest Kim, GOOD MORNING!

    I came here yesterday and quickly commented, but I wanted to come back given that I was on my tablet, and I couldn't comment too long or very well (the keys are too small!)

    This is such an important and most ENDURING message that never, ever gets stale. Every generation, every human being that is born and will walk this earth needs to learn this. But not just as a child. Each of us needs to learn this every single day. Kindness is like water in a watering can. It is necessary for the flower of the soul to carry on and grow. And as educators, kindness (or lack thereof) goes a long way....all the way through a students' life.

    This was such a great reminder to me that every day that I step onto that stage of the classroom, that as I instruct, CORRECT and manage, that kindness has to be the foundation of my actions and motives.

    THANK YOU dear friend! Anita

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  32. Hi Kim, wow what a horrible experience for you when you were little. I fee sad for you but mad at that teacher for not being more caring and giving you a hug! Yes being nice and kindness does matter in this world!

    How lovely to have received some gifts from your blogging friends. Blogging friends are the best!

    Have you started learning to crochet yet? I am a little excited for you.

    Wishing you all the best for a happy and healthy new year. I hope you had a nice first week of the new year. Have a nice weekend.

    Julie

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  33. Oh my goodness, I can't believe that your teacher did that to you at that time in your life. I can't even comprehend doing that to someone. Kindness does matter! And your story made me think of this quote:
    “Until we have met the monsters in ourselves, we keep trying to slay them in the outer world. And we find that we cannot. For all darkness in the world stems from darkness in the heart. And it is there that we must do our work.” – Marianne Williamson

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  34. Very interesting quote, Hera, I have not come across this one before today. It certainly is food for thought. My favorite Marianne Williamson quote is, “Children are happy because they don't have a file in their minds called "All the Things That Could Go Wrong.” Thanks for popping by today. Have a great weekend!

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  35. Well, you are super nice and kind, Julie! That is for sure! I haven't started crocheting yet, it is on my list for January. I have a friend who wants to have tea and get me started. I'll keep you posted!! Thanks for asking! :)

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  36. ...and that is the kind of teacher I bet they were all thrilled to have! We're all in it together...truer words were never spoken, Linda! :) I hope you are somewhere warm today!

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  37. I guess it does still bring pain, but putting it on paper has certainly helped to release it a bit! I do agree with you...some people value so many less important things more. Thanks so much of the comment and I hope you have a great weekend! :)

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  38. Hello Anita,
    I did receive you quick note. You are sweet to want to come back to comment! I have no doubt that you are kind in your classroom. I cannot imagine you being any other way, my friend. I do think that sometimes, people (including teachers) speak in a way that is not kind and they don't realize the long lasting effect words can have on their recipient...especially children. Sarcasm is so widely accepted today, but it is rarely appropriate and can be very cutting. Like they say, once those bullets are out of the gun, you can't suck them back in.

    I'm glad you came back and I hope you have a warm weekend! :)

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  39. oh, Kim
    Some teachers are truly not meant to teach, but you have always shown kindness. I can see why you love that quote. It's funny, but I have found other bloggers writing about a sad memory they experienced as a child and how they have learned from that experience.

    Have a great weekend.

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  40. Hi Kim, I love your little needle work. Great idea to hang it by the door. I can tell your parents brought you up well because it is obvious you are a kind person. You took a bad situation and turned it into something good that touches a lot of people. So many times I have had a waitress or cashier that are
    rude or sullen but treated them with a smile and kindness. Most of the time I get a little smile from them, not always, but I do not do it for myself, I do it for them. Sometimes that is the only nice thing that happens in their day.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    Debbie

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  41. I guess we all learn from our past, Vanessa. Thanks for the comment, my very kind friend! :)

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  42. Debbie, I bet your smile has made a difference in the lives of many. You're very right, it may be the only one they get all day long. Sometimes, I think people don't smile back, because they just don't expect it and don't know what to do with it. I am sure that the vast majority of people appreciate your kindness! Thanks so much for weighing in and have a great weekend! :)

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  43. Someone should have told on her and that teacher should have been dismissed from her job post haste. I remember at 13 when my great-grandmother died and essentially I was on my own because my grandmother was developmentally about 9 years old. Instead of people trying to help, they avoided me. And I truly understand what it is to be that very tenuous age and try to struggle through it alone. You are a kind person. I guess that's why I do the same thing. I didn't see a lot of that growing up.
    Brenda

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  44. Brenda, I am sorry that you suffered as well. I read your blog ~ you are a kind person and it shows in your posts, your parties, your comments. I guess we all learn from our past. It would be wonderful if it were a little less painful though. Thanks so much for sharing and feel better.

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  45. Somehow Kim, I do picture you like that - someone always smiling, ready to lend a hand or give a hug when needed. It's a great mantra to follow, and I think we should all follow. Whenever I encounter the very cranky or spiteful people, I just walk away and actually, kind of pity them. I believe that in order for someone to be so mean or grouchy, they must lead a very sad and unlucky life - so I feel for them more than anything, because I'm able to be nice and smile, just because, I feel lucky and grateful that everything in my life is OK. Not spectacularly great, but just OK. And I feel that I have to share that feeling thru a smile as well! So sorry about your experience with your teacher, I have a similar experience and it's sad that it does kind of stands out among my memory too, but see how it turned you into the kind teacher that you are?! I think 'bad things' are meant to happen to good people sometimes, to remind them over and over again to be always good, always kind. :-)

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  46. My goodness that story touches me. I had a teacher that blasted me once in the 2nd grade and it stuck with me forever. I met up with her in the 7th grade when she substituted in the school library and I was working there. She was nothing like that scary woman I remembered and didn't really seem to remember me much. It was a weird encounter. Many years later another friend who was in her class the year before had the same kind of awful memory of her. I guess they must have been taught that uniformity and conformity was all that matter...control...no emotion. Well the good thing is you come out of that awfulness with a more intelligent point of view on life than what they had so I guess there was a lesson in it after all. I love the "Kindness Matters" embroidered picture your friend gave to you. What a treasure. Someday I have to imagine one of your kids will want it too. Losing your father that that tender age must have been pretty awful. I remember being 12 and don't really care to re-live it!! Sounds to me like you were a wonderful teacher and I'm sure many students have fond memories of you!

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  47. Liz, thank you so much for your very thoughtful comment. I'm sorry you had a similar encounter. I bet there were so many times when a teacher remarked about your pretty dress or gave you a compliment, yet the awful interactions are the ones that stick with us. I think you are right, sensitivity training was not part of the training ~ Be tough, behave, don't make waves was the mantra of the day!! Oh what a different time! ;) Thanks for the visit!

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  48. I agree we all learn from the past and I do feel that my students benefitted from my bad experience! So many people seem to have a similar story, I'm sad for that, but glad to know that I was not alone. Thanks, Vel! <3

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  49. Just found your blog...what a sweet sign your friend made and what a great thing to remember!! And you indeed did not let what that mean teacher did ruin your life!! We never know do we, just what kindness another person needs that day....never know....thanks for sharing these things!! A real life to my day and I appreciate it!!

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  50. Elizabeth thank you so much for the very kind comment. I am glad that my story touched you in some way and I appreciate you letting me know. I hope that you will come back and visit often! Have a great night! :)

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  51. Came upon your blog and love needlework with words of wisdom. I sort of collect them and have one that says "You are Loved" a message from scripture. I seem to find messages I need to hear. "Kindness Matters" is such a great yet simple message that I need to hear over and over because it is so true and important. My heart goes out to you that you went through such trauma with your father passing away and the horrible words from your teacher. Pain on top of pain. What struck me is that you remember the incident so many years later. Goes to show the lasting affects of unkind words and why kindness is so very important. Thanks for sharing.

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  52. Ann, I am so glad that you stumbled onto my site. I adore needlework, too. I have another beautiful white on white piece that says, "Home". I have often wanted to make them...maybe someday! I agree, unfortunately, it seems like the unkind words do make more of an impression, especially in the mind of a child. Kindness does matter. Thanks so much for weighing in and I hope you come back to visit often. Have a warm night! :)

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  53. Love this post! Kindness matters in every single moment. Pinning this to my Encouragement board. :)

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  54. Thank you Stacey! I believe it matters every single moment, too. :)

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  55. Hi Kim,

    Trying to catch up with all my friends, in between taking down the Christmas decorations and cleaning after Liberty's visit, and so I found myself on your blog, reading about kindness, and I suddenly felt uplifted from your own acts of kindness because I recognized them in myself: those spontaneous smiles, warm eyes, offers of assistance to complete strangers, just being nice, and I wondered, is it nature or nurture? Personally, I believe it's the former, although one can definitely be influenced by modelling such a characteristic, which brings me to your conscious choice of making it a habit to teach by example, your lucky students, who, unlike their lovely teacher, will have the sweetest and fondest memories of her lessons in kindness, having both studied and practiced them in her class.

    Happy Wednesday, my friend.

    Poppy

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  56. Thank you, Poppy. I would like to think that I have helped to create nice memories for my students. I have seen many of them over the years (all grown up now ~ yikes!) and they always seem happy to greet me. I think that's a good sign! You always have the most thoughtful and insightful comments. Thanks so much for sharing! :)

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  57. This post made me really teary eyed. It brought up a lot of emotions. I'm so sorry for the loss of your dear father. Losing a parent at such a young age, any age for that matter is terrible. I lost my parents young. I wish your teacher had been kinder to you. The world needs more compassionate people like yourself.

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  58. Brandi, I am sorry for your loss, as well. I really appreciate your very compassionate words. I have to say that I have met so many kind people out here in blogland, yourself definitely included! :) Thanks for taking the time to comment tonight.

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  59. Jen, it would lovely to be your neighbor! :) xo Thank you for your very super sweet words!

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  60. Bless your heart...I can't imagine what that was like to have that teacher respond to you that way. I'm not surprised it stayed with you. Good for you though, for taking the high road and instilling that kindness DOES matter. Your students were very fortunate to have a caring, kind teacher like you. I love your sign and love that it's stayed in the same place for so long. It's funny because I often strike up a conversation with people at the store, etc. and my boys used to always ask me "Do you know that lady?" They were always so surprised to hear that I'd never met her. You never know how a kind word or smile can lift someone's day. :)

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    1. You're so right, Lisa, you just never know how your smile or kind word can impact a person. :)

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  61. Oh my! What an awful experience. Its very big of you to allow something like that to shape you for the better. Even though I've never met you in person I have always thought of you as a very sweet & kind person, it shows in your comments.

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    1. Audra, you just totally made my day! :) Thank you my friend and Happy New Year.

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  62. I don't know how I missed this one, Kim, but it's a treasure and so very true. I'm the smiler, too; and I've become even more aware of the significance of a simple smile in the cancer center that has become my home away from home. That was a terrible thing that teacher did to you when you were so vulnerable. I experienced similar situations, not from outside sources but from my mom. She didn't stop once I was married and had children....she was a very cold and jealous person. My dad was similar, but he came from a very troubled childhood ( not an excuse, just a fact). My mom was raised by two of the most loving people I've ever know....my grandparents. I do believe things happen for a reason, and even though they are cruel at the time, those situations become a great part of how we develop & become the people we are. From one "smiling person to another," I'm so glad you shared this.

    Warm hugs for a very happy & healthy "2016!"
    Carol

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    1. Seems like we all have a story that shapes us, don’t we Carol. I can’t say that either one of ours sounds very cheerful, but perhaps that is why we are and extend kindness to others. Thank you for sharing your smiles with me. xoxo

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  63. This post makes me mad and sad. How dare that teacher do such an insensitive thing! Yes, kindness matters, but right now I'm not feeling very kindly toward her in the least. In fact, if she were here I'd punch her in the face! Not very lady like, but that's over rated ;).

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    1. You know Doreen, when it happened, I didn’t tell my mom. She was so overwhelmed and sad, I just didn’t want to give her anything else to worry about. When I was older and shared this, her reaction was sad and mad, the same as yours.

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  64. Wow Kim! I can't believe a teacher could even act that way. What a devastating time for a 12 year old, it's a confusing time anyway, but to go through all that on top of it. It's instances like that though that make up our character. I'm that person too, please and thank you are just automatic for me. I try to treat people the way I like to be treated. You never know who's day your going to brighten just by being kind, you never know things people may be going through. That devastating moment taught you a valuable lesson in compassion and caring. Thanks for sharing this story, I felt your pain, and it never hurts to remind us all to keep a smile on our face:)

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    1. Thank you Rhonda. It was a tough day, in the middle of a lot of tough days, that's for sure. I think that it shaped me and made me a better person, a better teacher, but it wasn't fun!

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