The Transylvania Times -

Choosing Kindness Is Right

 

Last updated 3/12/2020 at 10:56am



(Editor’s Note: The following is the second of several guest columns by writers and community leaders encouraging residents to “Broaden Our Perspectives.” Future columns will appear on other pages besides the editorial pages. In the following piece, Ken and Dean are pseudonyms.)

“You’re just mean!” Ken hissed at me before limping off across the playground holding his shin. Dean stood aside, his mouth hanging open.

In that moment, my 9-year-old self was stunned and flooded with emotions. Sorry was certainly one of those feelings, but there was so much more.

My best friends in 4th grade at Etowah Elementary were Dean (now a preacher) and Ken (now trains in UFC-style fighting). I think I gravitated to these two little boys because they were rough and tumble types who loved to joke around – very much like my brothers at home. I’m naturally an introvert and struggled with shyness. I always dreaded the first day of school and the thought of having to make new friends, so these two were my safety net.

Dean and Ken were funny, and their entertainment often involved a punch in the arm or a crack to each other’s shins. Our friendships were easy – generally acting goofy to get laughs from each other. I loved their wide-eyed reactions and fits of laughter when I discovered that, of the three of us, I had the strongest kick. It became a game for me to catch one of them off-guard. The other would double over laughing like it was an episode of our favorite “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” This went on for weeks, and my aim and strength were improving with practice.

Ken calling me mean was a punch in the gut and a needed reality check. I realized in that moment that I was never the victim of this little game and, worse, I was acting like a bully. Not only was I deeply sorry that I had hurt my friend, I realized I wasn’t being the friend I wanted to be. This moment wasn’t just a playground interaction; this was the moment of self-awareness that my actions reflect who I am.

As adults, we talk a lot about the big choices – marriage, children, buying a house, careers – but we don’t always talk about how every choice we make adds up to who we are in the world. Even little decisions about what to eat for breakfast or whether to smile at a stranger create pieces of who we are as we live our lives in community. Choices have the potential to snowball – we make one that leads to another and another. If we aren’t paying attention, if we aren’t being intentional, we may end up somewhere we never thought we would be.

That’s what happened to me with Dean and Ken. I wanted to be accepted, but somewhere along the way I started making decisions that didn’t reflect either the kind of person or the kind of friend that I wanted to be. It was also the day I realized that I am in the driver’s seat to show the world who I am.

I apologized and after a few days we had different games to play and all was forgiven, but I was forever changed and awakened to what it means to be intentional. These days, I think of that day and smile at the reminder to choose kindness each moment of each day, especially when the world doesn’t feel all that kind. If we all commit to choosing kindness, I believe that we can make the world a kinder place.

(Jaime Laughter has been the Transylvania County manager for five years. She has been serving in state and local government for 20 years and is an AICP certified planner and ICMA credentialed manager. She has deep family roots in Transylvania and Henderson counties with a family history of public and community service. She and her husband, Geoff, stay busy raising three children: Bella, 15; Mady, 11; and Sam, 3, in hopes that they will grow up to love and value Western North Carolina like they do.)

 
 

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