When I decided to follow Buzzfeed on Twitter, I knew it would take up a lot of my feed. I made the decision that this was alright. I was prepared to see some heartwarming stories, and some heartbreaking ones. Yesterday, I came across an article that fell into the second category.
The article is titled “Teacher Shares Heartbreaking Anonymous Notes Through the ‘I Wish My Teacher Knew’ Project” and it details the story of a teacher from Denver who had her grade three class write out their answers to finish the sentence ‘I wish my teacher knew ________’. The results were a candid look into the lives of the students.
Frank Warren famously said, “Every single person has at least one secret that would break your heart.” The secrets of these young children broke my heart. This article reminded me that many people carry a burden, and sometimes this burden is invisible.
When we look at someone, we only see the visible – for example, that their reading log isn’t signed. What we don’t see is that their parents aren’t home to sign it, and because of this we treat the person differently than if we had known of their secret struggle.
We can never truly know what someone else is going through, and for this reason we should try to extend kindness to everyone. Sometimes, it can help lift that invisible burden even just a little bit.
I think the article has been revised since the time I read it yesterday, but an earlier version mentioned that at recess the student who had written that she had no one to play with had been surrounded with friends. These notes not only changed the teachers perspective of how she acted towards her students, but it also changed how the students themselves acted.
Although this was an instance when invisible burdens were made visible, this isn’t always the case. If everyone in the world acted with the assumption that invisible burdens are present for the people they interact with, I think the world would be a better place.
When I read the “I wish my teacher knew” messages written by students, my heart broke. I believe reading these notes evoked such a strong reaction from me not just because of my compassion for these children suffering on the inside, but my own sense of guilt.
We are both very busy people, and I am sure you can sympathize with the “ahh how am I going to keep up with all this?!” feeling. Between school, sports, extracurriculars and jobs it is far too easy to become preoccupied with our own lives. When things happen in our personal lives, we often look around and think to ourselves “why does no one seem to care that this is happening? Do they not understand?”
When the roles are reversed, others are left wondering the same thing. The truth is, I believe we all have the right intentions when it comes to being kind and empathetic towards other human beings. However, those concerns often become a secondary priority.
There are times when someone else’s behaviour gets on my nerves and I have to remind myself not to react negatively. They might’ve been having a bad day, there may have been things going on at home and that person might have just needed to blow off some steam. Letting someone know that you’re there for them if they need you is often a far better response than judging their behaviour alone. As you mentioned, it can help lift the invisible burden even just a little bit. The power of kindness is will always be greater than the power of ignorance.
Remember, there is almost always more to a person than meets the eye. Everyone deserves to be treated with the same dignity and respect no matter the situation. I feel one one of my favourite Plato quotes is relevant to this discussion; “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”