THE BOND OF KIND­NESS

Activated - - NEWS - By Elsa Sichrovsky

When I think back on my un­for­get­table freshman se­mes­ter in col­lege, an im­age of a six-foot-five, lanky fel­low with longish black hair comes to mind. Steve was a se­nior in my depart­ment, but we first met in a Gen­eral Ed­u­ca­tion course. He won my ad­mi­ra­tion by join­ing me in the front row, the spot avoided by most stu­dents. Al­though I barely rec­og­nized him, hav­ing only seen him a few times in the depart­ment of­fice, he ac­knowl­edged me with a nod. 1. Proverbs 27:17 NLT 2. Colos­sians 3:14 NLT

I had a two-hour gap be­fore my next class, so I headed to the nearby read­ing room to pre­pare for my up­com­ing quiz on the Odyssey. To my sur­prise, Steve was al­ready there, set­tled down with a cof­fee and por­ing over The Mer­chant of Venice. Ap­par­ently he had the same two-hour gap. I sat down op­po­site him and took out my text­book, too shy to say any­thing, hav­ing al­ready learned not to cross the di­vide be­tween se­niors and fresh­men. Steve some­times looked like he wanted to say some­thing, but didn’t, so a slightly awk­ward, but al­most friendly, si­lence reigned for the next two hours.

For sev­eral weeks, ev­ery Tuesday the two of us would sit op­po­site each other, study­ing in si­lence. Still, his com­pan­ion­able hu­man pres­ence eased the lonely hours of re­lent­less mem­o­riz­ing and an­a­lyz­ing ev­ery col­lege stu­dent is sub­jected to. His con­sis­tently fo­cused aca­demic per­for­mance was an ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple to me as I strug­gled with the dis­trac­tions and ex­cite­ments of the great and com­plex world of academia. As the proverb goes, “As iron sharp­ens iron, so a friend sharp­ens a friend.”

1 Fi­nally, one hot day he wanted to turn on the elec­tric fan in the read­ing

room, and, be­ing a gen­tle­man, he first asked for my con­sent. In the con­ver­sa­tion that fol­lowed, we dis­cov­ered a shared love of Shake­speare, lin­guis­tics, and Mrs. Lee, the most pop­u­lar pro­fes­sor in our depart­ment. He was glad to share help­ful in­for­ma­tion on the freshman courses I was tak­ing and rec­om­mended some in­ter­est­ing courses.

For the rest of the se­mes­ter, our Tuesday study time was punc­tu­ated with light con­ver­sa­tion and even jokes. We greeted each other in the hall­ways and took an elec­tive to­gether in the next se­mes­ter. Steve had lit­tle to gain by chat­ting with me, but I re­al­ized that he not only saw our shared pas­sion for learn­ing, but also had com­pas­sion on me as a clue­less freshman he once had been, and he didn’t let so­cial con­ven­tion keep him from reach­ing out.

In my sopho­more year, he grad­u­ated and we lost contact. How­ever, I will al­ways be grate­ful to Steve for what he taught me through his ex­am­ple: when so­cial norms con­flict with kind­ness, let kind­ness have the fi­nal say. A so­cial norm that pro­motes ex­clu­sion, like the di­vi­sion be­tween se­niors and fresh­men in my col­lege, must be dis­carded in order to ful­fill our re­spon­si­bil­ity to love those with whom we come in contact. Fur­ther­more, those quiet Tues­days showed that a good friend­ship is not nec­es­sar­ily built on gre­gar­i­ous­ness or out­ward charm. All that a good friend­ship re­quires is mu­tual re­spect, com­bined with shared in­ter­ests, and what an apos­tle rec­om­mended: “Above all, clothe your­selves with love, which binds us all to­gether in per­fect har­mony.”

2

I would go to the deeps a hun­dred times to cheer a down­cast spirit. It is good for me to have been af­flicted, that I might know how to speak a word in sea­son to one that is weary.— Charles Spur­geon (1834–1892)

The deep­est prin­ci­ple in hu­man na­ture is the crav­ing to be ap­pre­ci­ated.— Wil­liam James (1842–1910)

Kind words do not cost much … yet they ac­com­plish much.—

Blaise Pas­cal (1623–1662)

Too of­ten we un­der­es­ti­mate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a lis­ten­ing ear, an hon­est com­pli­ment, or the small­est act of car­ing, all of which have the po­ten­tial to turn a life around.— Leo Buscaglia (1924–1998)

For one day, try to say as lit­tle as pos­si­ble. Try to keep the fo­cus away from your­self. Where you’re tempted to tell a story, ask a ques­tion. Where you’re tempted to say, “Oh, that same thing hap­pened to me...,” ask, “How did that make you feel?” … At the end of the day, make a list of ev­ery­thing that you learned. How much would you have missed if you had spent the time talk­ing about your­self?— Linda Ka­plan Thaler and Robin Ko­val, The Power of Nice (New York: Dou­ble­day, 2006) Elsa Sichrovsky is a free­lance writer. She lives with her fam­ily in south­ern Tai­wan.

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