This I Believe

Lindsay - Orem, Utah
Entered on May 22, 2007

Five seconds, a kind word, and a changed life.

The human in me judged her; she was a janitor, slightly handicapped, shy, hunched over, and apparently fascinated with the pattern in the carpet. Regretfully, I placed myself on a pedestal above her. Instinctively I believed I was better.

This particular time was not unlike many other times in my life when I had done the same thing, and thrown my actions by the wayside. But this time, for the first time, I realized something: it would be just as easy to smile and say hi as it would be to pretend she wasn’t there. I smiled, said hello and complimented her shirt. So simple. Five seconds, a kind word, and a changed life.

I learned a lesson that day; I believe in the power of a kind word. Then came another day: another person, another story. This girl was walking down the hall with her head drooping slightly. Her shoulders looked as though they had the weight of the world resting upon them. Thinking back to the lesson with the janitor, I made an effort to look for something good in her. Something to compliment her on. I was surprised how easily it came to me. Her hair was golden– a color many girls would kill for– I told her how pretty it was. I’m sure those simple kind words had more of an impact on me than they ever did on her. She wasn’t the only one that walked a little taller, and a little bit straighter that day. I did.

I then found myself in those girls’ shoes. It wasn’t a bad day, just normal. With finals approaching, projects were due, and overwhelming commitments were on my plate. It had been a “hmm….maybe I won’t do my hair this morning” sort of day, just one of many similar days that week. I was just tired. He didn’t have to tell me I looked beautiful, but he did. I’ll never forget it as long as I live. His exact words aren’t what mattered. What mattered most was how it made me feel. My day was turned around, I was happy, and it was all due to a few words.

That was the moment that reinforced the belief I had been developing. I comprehended the power of a kind word.

Now I know that I’m not doing someone else a favor when I say something nice to them. The favor is really for me. All it takes is five seconds, and a kind word for a life to be changed, but, it wasn’t the janitor’s life that was changed the most. It wasn’t the girl in the hall’s life. It was mine.

The empowerment I get by saying kind words doesn’t come by building myself up. Power within words comes with each new utterance as I humble myself enough to lift up someone else. Together, we raise each other to a higher platform: the same platform. One where nobody is better than the other.

I believe in the power of a kind word.

It only took five seconds, a kind word, and my life was changed.