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Kindness Opens Hearts and Lives

By Annie L., Grade 11
I hope it is true when I say that everybody in this room has been shaped by the kindness of another person. Whether this person is a friend, a parent, a sibling, a teacher, or even a stranger, there is no denying the positive impact that kindness leaves on you. And there is also no denying the impact you can leave on the world by simply being nice to someone else.

When I first came to Stanstead at the beginning of Grade 9, I was scared of being away from my family for the first time. I distinctly remember that first night in Webster House; crying that I wanted to go back to my home, to my support system, and to everything I was used to. I was in a new school, in a new country, and I felt really alone.

But what I quickly learned was that I would never be alone. I met amazing people who would bend over backwards to help others, and they really changed me for the better. One of these people was a prefect named Cindy, a Grade 12 student living in Webster. She took me under her wing, making sure that I was always included in activities, even though I was three years younger than her. I quickly became much more talkative throughout the year because of her kindness towards me; I felt much happier and more confident. Before Stanstead, I always thought I was a shy introvert, but I quickly realized that in a community full of kind, caring and supportive people, I am actually a lot more confident than I ever thought I could be.

Cindy showed kindness by including me in activities, but kindness doesn't always have to be like that. Kindness can simply mean being friendly and generous, without the expectation of a reward. As long as you are making another person feel better, you are being kind. This can be as easy as giving a compliment about someone's hair, or as difficult as being there for someone on the other side of the country.

Kindness can take many forms, and this is beautifully demonstrated in the story The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. In the book, there is a young boy who finds an apple tree. As a child, he enjoys playing with the tree by climbing it, swinging from its branches, and eating its apples. As the boy ages, he spends less and less time with the tree, only coming when he wants material goods. Every time the boy comes, the tree gives parts of itself away so that the boy can be happy. When the boy was a teenager, he took the apples to sell for money. When he was a young man, he took the branches to build a house. And when he was an old man, he took the trunk to build a boat. At every point, the tree was happy to be of help to the boy. At the end of the story, however, the boy returned as an elderly man, and the tree was sad that it couldn't provide the same things it did in the past. The boy, however, was truly grateful, as the stump left behind was the perfect spot for him to sit and rest his aching body. The story ends with the boy being grateful for the tree's willingness to help, and the tree being grateful that it could do so much over the course of its life.

What I hope for you to take away from this story is not to give until you have nothing left for yourself, rather give help and kindness whenever you can, for as long as you can.

To quote Maya Angelou, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." So when you leave here today, challenge yourself to be kind to three different people, because people will always remember how they were treated, and they will continue to treat others in the same way.