Never Suppress a Generous Thought

Dear Ceanray,

The other day at school I paid for my lunch with two five dollar bills. The total of my food was $9.10, so this wasn’t unusual. What was unusual was what happened after the women at the cash register asked me if I had a dime. I was sure I did – I always have an abundance of change in my wallet – so I told her I would check and see.

My hands were full with my food, so it was difficult for me to maneuver what I was holding in order to open my wallet. When I finally did reach it, there was no need – the girl in line behind me had given the cashier a dime. I was completely taken aback by her act of kindness. I found a dime in my wallet, and tried to repay her with it, but she insisted that I keep it.

Even now as I type this, I can’t get over how kind that simple act was. It didn’t take much effort on her part, but her humility in refusing my dime (worth only ten cents, but still) struck me as incredibly generous. In an age where bad news seems to be everywhere, it is amazing to experience positivity.

One of my favourite quotes is, “Never suppress a generous thought.” I love this quote because of the simple reminder it gives, and also because it highlights the unfortunate fact that sometimes we do suppress our generous thoughts.

If the girl in line behind me in my school cafeteria had suppressed the generous thought she had, the consequences wouldn’t have been dire. I would have found my dime, paid with it, and been on my merry way. However, the fact that the stakes weren’t high and she still acted on her generous thought says a lot about her character.

Our world can be very cruel, but every so often we are touched by kindness and our faith is restored. Because of that one girl’s simple action, I am inspired to act on my own generous thoughts and be that person for someone else. If we don’t suppress our kind thoughts, we can create a ripple of positivity.
Sherina

 

Dear Sherina,

I love that quote,  “Never suppress a generous thought”. This is important for us to remember, especially given the events of this past week. When I heard about the terrorist attacks in Paris, my first reaction was anger. The people who lost their lives were innocent, all they wanted to do was to enjoy a concert or get a bite to eat. They were not soldiers, nor high-ranking government officials. What did they do to deserve this?

After hearing about Paris, I then saw the news about a suicide bomber in Lebanon and yesterday, the hostage situation in Mali. With everything that’s going on in the world, it’s important not to lose hope, and to acknowledge the brighter side of humanity.

In everyday life, simple acts of kindness are underrated and, more often than not, cost nothing. Don’t underestimate the power of asking someone how their day was, or how work went. If someone looks sad or unhappy, asking if they’re feeling okay can make a difference – even if they don’t want to share what’s causing their sadness –  it’s reassuring to know someone cares.

I’m a firm believer in leaving the world a better place than it was when you got here, whether that means volunteering at your local animal shelter, food bank or senior’s home. It could also mean getting involved in the issues you’re passionate about. Even the smallest impact on another person’s life can make a profound impact.

Ceanray

On Invisible Burdens

Dear Ceanray,

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.

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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.

Sherina

Dear Sherina,

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.”

Ceanray

Social Media: A Double-Edged Sword

Dear Sherina,

Our generation is in possession of one of the most powerful weapons of all time. We can share and upload our thoughts and expressions for all the world to see simply by pressing a button. This weapon must also be respected and cared for properly. If misused, it can and will backfire.

In previous letters, we have discussed social media campaigns such as #BellLetsTalk and the incredible effect they can have. Other well known awareness campaigns include some of my personal favourites  #YesAllWomen and #AskHerMore.

In recent weeks, Twitter users took to the popular social networking site using the hashtags #whiteandgold and #blueandblack to debate the colour of a dress that was initially posted on Tumblr. The dress trended worldwide and approximately 10 million Twitter users added to the debate. In case you were wondering, the actual colour of the dress was revealed to be blue and black.

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Understandably, many were angry that something as trivial as a dress had gained global media attention overnight when there are human rights violations that happen every day with little recognition from a worldwide audience.

The Salvation Army, a Christian denominational church and international charitable organization, capitalized brilliantly on the internet sensation that is “the dress”. They used female models posing in the dress to call attention to domestic violence, and the countless women who suffer silently on a daily basis.

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The powerful images speak to the true capacity of social media to create awareness and spark intelligent conversation.

Ceanray

Dear Ceanray,

I’m really glad you shared the story of how a picture of dress that seemed to change colours became a powerful advertisement for a serious issue. That story highlights the positive impact that social media can have; there are also, as I’m sure you know, many negative impacts of social media.

In the opening line of your letter you describe social media as “a powerful weapon.” This got me thinking about whether or not social media is actually a weapon. The December hacks on Sony Entertainment, in which private emails were leaked and national security was threatened over the release of a controversial movie, showed that “cyberwar” (as it is dubbed by some) is a formidable threat.

My worry is that this is just the beginning. I don’t even think we’ve scraped the surface of what technology is capable of – a scary thought. In our lifetimes, technology has already advanced so much. With these advances have come increases in hacks, identity fraud, and cyberbullying.

According to dosomething.org, 43% of kids have been bullied online. Social media websites with direct chat features make it easier for bullies to approach kids – because when they are behind a computer screen, they can feel invincible.

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Like many things in this world, social media has its positives and its negatives. I don’t know if the positives outweigh the negatives – they don’t seem to. Then again, I love my cat videos and “what fruit matches your personality” quizzes (brought to me via social media) as much as the next girl.

Is social media dangerous? Yes – of course. Is it always dangerous, though? No. It all depends on how people use it. The power is in our hands. Let’s be responsible, kind, and purposeful with our use of social media!

Sherina


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