A School Assembly and the Ripple Effect of a Simple Act of Kindness

Notes and prayer from Assembly today

Today we had a recent alumna speak to our faculty and student body about her struggle with an eating disorder.  Now a senior in college, she spoke beautifully and compellingly.  She was clear, assertive, engaging, and remarkably insightful. In short, she has become the kind of person you hope graduates will become. Her audience was rapt.

Before she spoke I started the assembly with a prayer and few short remarks about the loads–figurative bookbags–we bring to school each day. I wanted to point out that while we can’t really know the hardships others in our community may face, we can know how to lighten their loads through our empathy, respect, and kindness.

Joined by her family, who sat on the front row, our guest shared her narrative about how the disorder evolved from a disorder of eating to an eating disorder, and she told the harrowing story of her descent into this disease. The most powerful moment for me was her description of a note a classmate of hers wrote to her as she was about to head into a sixty-day residential program designed to help her recover. In the note he made no reference to the specifics of her condition–instead in the pure and honest voice of a high school boy, he made it clear how much he cared for her and wanted her to return. He told her that she was special, that she had many friends and that they would look forward to her return.  Her voice during the entirety of her talk was steady–not without emotion but mature and deeply composed…only when she read the note did I sense her voice shake. How interesting and lovely–a note written by a boy and stuck into a locker had power to affect her life so dramatically that revisiting it today stopped her breath.

Appreciation for a simple act of kindness shared at such a poignant moment never dissipates. His kindness some seven years ago helped change her world, and her own act of kindness and of bravery in speaking today in front of nearly a thousand people perhaps changed the world for some other young people in the pews.

In my ninth grade English class we are now headed into Act Five of Macbeth. In that play we see the inevitable ripple effect of a kind of original sin. Once Macbeth starts sinning, he finds he has no choice but to continue until the whole world around him crashes. After the assembly talk today, I am reminded that kindness has its own inevitable ripple effect. 

3 thoughts on “A School Assembly and the Ripple Effect of a Simple Act of Kindness

  1. hollychesser February 17, 2012 / 5:12 pm

    The other day an English colleague shared with me the guiding stars of his work with students: expression, empathy, and imagination. We must learn to express ourselves so that others understand us. We must employ empathy so that we understand others. Lastly, we must develop our imagination so that when life invariably becomes dark at some point, we can envision light.

    His blog is lovely too: ttp://maroonballoon.wordpress.com/

    • J Ross Peters February 18, 2012 / 8:10 am

      Thank you for this, Holly. I will check out the link. When I think about the 21st Century skill I value most, I think of empathy. I really appreciate that you took the time to comment.

  2. LJ February 19, 2012 / 8:11 am

    What courage the alumna showed. This is a lovely story and I hope that her assembly will give strength to any students (and staff) to combat their own fears and demons, whatever they may be. Just goes to show how a simple act can have such a profound impact and I hope I remember that in the future.

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