It was a humid morning as I dribbled a soccer ball through a series of cones as a middle schooler attending sports camp at the University of Virginia. I donned a bright, oversized orange jersey, white Umbro shorts, and orange socks that sat above my knee. I thought I was the coolest thing out there, except for one thing: my coke bottle glasses, without which I could not see a single thing.
The coaches had lied. A ball buzzed through the air and hit me squarely on the side of my head, shattering my glasses. It was Sunday in the South, and there was no time for a replacement pair. The only way I could see was by strapping those oversized goggles around my face. Come lunchtime, that is exactly what I did.
Enter middle school girls and some of the toughest bullies I’ve ever encountered. They teased me so hard about my headwear that my tears fogged up the entire front glass of the goggles. I used my fingers as a sort of pseudo-squeegee to see well enough to finish my sandwich.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, a group of older girls at a nearby table called me over. They did not tease, or taunt, or torment. They gave me something much better: Kindness.
I can’t say that at moment I morphed into some self-aware tween giver. In fact, for a long time I was often the recipient of such generous acts – a nice meal as a poor journalist, a kind word when feeling glum.
But it is the feeling one gets when they are the recipient of a kind act that has prompted me in recent years to give more. There are so many instances in our daily lives during which we can affect a stranger’s mood. My best days are those when someone intervenes in a positive way – and so I try to replicate that behavior for others.
Put simply: Giving feels good, and it makes others feel good. We could use more people in this world like those young girls, who gave me just enough kindness to be remembered fondly decades later.