Several weeks ago, I attended an anti-bullying conference at TN Tech where I was introduced to a young high school girl by the name of Rachel Scott. Rachel was always reaching out to those who were different or who were being bullied, and she would go out of her way to make new students feel welcome. She said, “I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go.”
In her junior year of high school, she wrote an essay titled “My Ethics, My Codes of Life” where she talked about making a difference in the lives of others. Just by doing small things for people could greatly influence their behavior and outlook on life. She admired people such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, Mother Theresa, and others who were the greatest examples of love, compassion, and kindness. The person she admired the most was Anne Frank because in spite of her experiences, Miss Frank made a difference through the writing of her diary. Therefore, Rachel began writing her own diaries where she expressed her feelings, philosophies, and thoughts about how we can help make the world a better place.
As Rachel stated, “I am sure that my codes of life may be very different from yours, but how do you know that trust, compassion, and beauty will not make this world a better place to be in and this life a better one to live? My codes may seem like a fantasy that can never be reached, but test them for yourself, and see the kind of effect they have in the lives of people around you. You just may start a chain reaction.”
There are countless stories of how Rachel touched the lives of others. She once stood up for a boy with disabilities who was being bullied and became his friend. What she didn’t know was that before she did this, he was getting ready to kill himself. Her kindness gave him hope and he chose life. She was always looking for ways to bring kindness to those around her.
She continues to change lives to this day except for one thing. Rachel is no longer with us. Rachel was the first person to die in the Columbine High School shootings. But her legacy lives on because those whose lives she touched organized Rachel’s Challenge where they present programs in schools and other venues teaching children and adults how to make a positive difference. (For more information, please go to www.rachelschallenge.org.)
Friends, there are so many people of all ages in the world who are experiencing so much darkness for whatever reasons, and many are becoming desperate because they lose hope. Recently a friend of mine committed suicide and it was heartbreaking. People who kill themselves don’t necessarily want to die; they just want the darkness and pain to end, and all it takes is that one split-second decision of no return. Never take away a person’s hope because that may be all they have left.
We need to lift people up and show them unconditional love and acceptance. We have got to stop judging, demonizing, and making people feel worthless or less than. All the great spiritual masters and teachers throughout history knew the importance of unconditional love. There is so much we can do to bring light to someone’s darkness. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
We need to teach our children starting as young as possible to treat people with kindness, to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves, and to choose positive influences. By doing so, they can make a huge difference and be real life heroes.
Leo Buscaglia said, “Only the weak are cruel. Gentleness can only be expected from the strong.” And I agree with Aesop when he stated, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Beginning today, let’s all start a chain reaction of kindness without expecting anything in return. If someone does ask how they can return the act of kindness, just ask them to pay it forward. Kindness is contagious; therefore, let’s spread it far and wide. By doing so, we can be the change we wish to see in the world.
Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper November 29, 2013.