As a fourth grader, my main concerns consisted of friends, recess, and fun. I was learning about myself, and I often wasn’t fully aware of the needs of those around me.
In that fourth grade class was a girl named Jessica. She was different and didn’t quite fit in with the other kids. She was teased and picked on by the other students in class, especially by my friends. They weren’t nice to her because she was different and that was annoying to them. I didn’t necessarily pick on her myself, but I didn’t go out of my way to be nice to her. Even though it went against my core belief, my friends’ opinions had more of an impact on me than what my natural instincts were.
My mom occasionally worked as a substitute teacher. Mrs. Thompson would sometimes call up my mom at the last minute to fill in for her. From watching the kids in my class, my mom could tell that the others weren’t very nice to Jessica. She noticed that Jessica liked me, because I didn’t tease her like the others did. After school my mom pulled me aside and changed my perspective on the situation. She gave me some simple advice that has become my motto and guiding rule that governs everything I do. She taught me, “Be nice to everyone, no matter what.” That day I better understood that everyone has feelings and wants to be accepted. Being nice to Jessica, I realized, was something that I needed to do. She needed a friend as much as anyone else did, and seeing happiness in her made me happy. From that point, I have tried my hardest to not only be nice to Jessica, but to all those around me.
Growing up I have tried to follow the words of my mother. Being social and concerned about those around me doesn’t come easily. I am often reserved, especially when I’m in a foreign environment. When I see someone having a bad day or a hard time fitting in, I sometimes have to step outside of my comfort zone and make them feel welcome. Even if someone has been unkind to me, the answer is not unpleasant behavior. I try to take the higher road and give them the respect that both of us deserve.
My mom not only taught me the importance of kindness, but has been an example to me. When someone new moves into our neighborhood or I have new friends come over for the first time, she goes out of her way to make them feel welcome. She understands how hard it can be for people to be in unfamiliar territory. I have seen how happy and welcome she makes people feel, and I hope that I have even a portion of her ability.
Nobody can tell by outward emotions if someone is having a good day or not. Saying hello to someone has the ability to make a person’s day. I still follow what my mother taught me in the fourth grade and will live it until the day I die. I believe in being nice to everyone, no matter what.