As the student of a Jesuit institution, the art of discernment is not lost on me. When asked “what does it mean to be you” or “what is your defining quality”, there are many things that come to mind. But after thinking through these other characteristics, there is always one characteristic that is at the center of my other favorite personal qualities: kindness.
I will be the first to admit that earlier on in my life, I wasn’t the kindest person I knew. In middle school, I was a completely different person than I am today. Unrecognizable to those who know me now. Even after all the repressed memories from that time in my life, I still remember the person I was, and I refuse to become even a little like I was back then. I changed for the better after my middle school and high school days. In late middle school and early high school, I fell in with a great group of friends who taught me what real friendship was like.
Unfortunately, after losing one of these friends who was bullied and harassed for so long, most of my other friendships fell apart as well. But one thing that I will never forget from my late friend is her kindness. She is the reason that I fight so hard for things like mental health awareness and anti-bullying efforts. She is the reason why I work to be kind to everyone I meet, whether they deserve it or not. She is why I believe that kindness is my defining quality.
When you look up the definition of kindness, you might find something like “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate”. But kindness is so much more than something that can be read off a page. Kindness is something that you emulate. Something that you feel in your heart and in your soul. Kindness is often unforgettable. Kindness is a saving grace, and can change someone’s life.
For me, kindness is a way of life, not just a definition or a quality that someone may have. It is a trait that connects me to my friend who died because of all the hate that was sent her way. Kindness is a connecting force: something that makes me feel coupled to another individual. But overall, kindness is a gift that I try to give to every individual that I encounter.
Whether that be going out of my way to help someone out, giving a smile to someone who has temporarily lost theirs, or complimenting strangers who look as if they could use some uplifting words, kindness is a rebellion to the hate and exclusivity that we see too often in our world. Be a rebel. Spread kindness. And always remember, no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.