This I Believe

Melissa - Carrollton, Texas
Entered on September 8, 2006
Age Group: Under 18
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Complimenting Strangers

When I was twelve years old, I had the world’s ugliest backpack. It was shocking lime green and had boyish black netting all over the front, and I cried when Mom told me I better wear it because she wasn’t buying me another one. Every day at school, I blushingly wore it and imagined everyone smirking at me in the school halls. But one day, an eighth grade girl –a complete stranger- came up to me and whispered, “I love your backpack,” and walked away. I stood in the school hallway, stunned. Did she have any idea of what that meant to me? That one sentence, that little compliment which took her no effort to say, completely changed my attitude about my backpack. It was a revelation to me that a girl I had never met could help me feel more confident- just with a simple gift of admiration. Since that day in junior high, I have believed in complimenting strangers.

Isn’t it funny how something so small can mean so much to another person? That,

I believe, is the total beauty of complimenting strangers. The entire idea is simple- saying something nice to someone, whether you know them or not, because it just might make their day. The compliment doesn’t have to be profound. It’s more the thought behind the compliment that matters anyway. It just shows the stranger that someone does care about them and will take some of their time to help them. While it does seem like a strange thought to walk up to random people and say something kind, it really is worth the embarrassment to see a smile on someone’s face.

Before, I had never liked speaking to people I did not know, unless I needed to say, “Excuse me” or something similarly nonchalant. I was shy, averting my eyes at people I passed on the sidewalk. Now, I say “Your necklace is beautiful” to the girl bagging our groceries, or “Your kids are very well behaved” to the dad sitting next to us in a restaurant. It’s still hard for me sometimes to express my admiration out loud, but it gets easier every day to shatter the barriers between myself and a stranger. Maybe they won’t even notice my compliments, but that’s okay. It only took me a second to say it.

Hopefully someday I’ll comfort a random stranger the same way I was comforted in the sixth grade, because sometimes we just need some reassurance, no matter from who, to get us through a bad day.