Friday, May 9, 2014

KINDNESS MATTERS

As a Youth Advocate at a high school I deal primarily with the "defiant" and "unruly" kids.  If there is an issue with one of the students I am typically the "go-to" person before they meet with their administrator for further consequences. 
When I go get the student, the teacher or whoever sent for me will explain the situation so I can relay the information as needed. As I leave with the student I always make sure to hear their side of the story so they never feel like they don't have a voice in the situation. Over the course of time, and countless students pulled, I have been impressed by the near-exactness of the two stories. The students are typically very good about owning up to their mistakes as they talk with me.
Recently I had a situation similar to most however it wasn't a student I had ever worked with before. Without going into much detail, I will simply say that I truly felt the student was being treated unfairly. However, regardless of my opinions I am still required to take the student to the office if requested by the teacher. I witnessed the teacher being quite harsh to the student (and for the record the student did not respond well to that, and reacted just as you would expect an angry teenager to react). As I walked with the student I explained how fighting back with the teacher would not help the situation and I told him that I would make sure his side was heard. 
After a fairly brief discussion and as I was about to walk away the student looked back at me and said, 
"Thank you for being nice."  
This is such a simple statement and you wouldn't think it would have such a huge impact on me, but it did. All day I kept thinking about that comment. And frankly I was embarrassed by all the times at work I hadn't been as kind and patient as I am capable of being. 
I didn't feel that what I did for this student was that extraordinary, but he felt that I had been nice and for HIM it made a difference. I simply took the time to listen. I didn't rush to an assumption, and I heard him out. It wasn't hard, it didn't take up any extra time, and you know what? It made a difference. 
Since that day I have tried to consciously "be nice". I know it sounds simple enough but believe it or not, working with teenagers all day can make someone become extremely impatient. However, it has been amazing for me to watch the changes that have happened in them, because of the changes I made in myself. Since I have been more patient and "nice" they have responded and been farrrr more respectful and compliant. 
It is easy for us to become frustrated with others when they don't match up to our expectations of them. We can be quick to point fingers and accuse. Unfortunately, rarely will this make a lasting or positive change. The best way to get through to someone is through kindness. 
We won't be able to change others, and we shouldn't try to. But we can change ourselves. We can be kind to others, even to those who are not kind to us. In doing so, our hearts will soften and WE will change. This change that happens within ourselves will make it easier to be patient and understanding. It doesn't guarantee that others will be kind to us, but making sure others are nice is not your responsibility. Your job is to be kind, regardless of the outcome, and I can promise you, the outcome will be a positive one in the long run. 
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