The Importance of Being Kind

Growing up, I was always taught to treat everyone I met with kindness. The idea that anyone you meet could be fighting a battle you know nothing of was always in the back of my mind. I’ve encountered people throughout my life that seemed like they didn’t grow up with that same value; however, it wasn’t until coming to Kenyon that the discrepancy between kindness and genuine apathy became undeniably apparent to me.

Maybe it stemmed from the resources I was provided with growing up in a household where money was tight and there was a great value in every service you were provided with. Holidays meant leaving out cookies for the mailman and trash collectors, and thank-you notes were written for even the smallest of actions. There was an emphasis placed on treating those around you with the same amount of respect you would like to have in return. I was told growing up that it didn’t matter where you were coming from or what job you were doing, everyone deserved the same level of respect; that you should treat the janitors the same way you would treat the CEO of a company.

Last year, there was an incident of a note surfacing around campus making fun of the janitorial staff that provide services for Kenyon, and I think it was in that moment that I realized the immense divide that lies within not only our campus community but our society as a whole. There is such an emphasis on our own individual journeys and the big dreams we each aspire to that we lose sight of those that help us to get to those dreams along the way. It was at that moment that I realized that the person I try to be and the people others are don't always align. I remember freshman year, when I wrote notes to the AVI workers in Peirce Dining Hall thanking them for their services during the holidays and left them anonymously, I encouraged my friends to write thank-you notes on napkins and leave them on their tables before they would leave the building for classes. Now, this isn’t an article to give props to myself on being kind to others; it’s to heighten the idea that this kindness isn’t a normality, that somewhere along the way there has become a clear difference between being thankful and assuming you deserve the things you are given. That the services we are constantly provided with seem to be taken for granted a majority of the time.

It has been disheartening to see the way my peers treat those around them. It has been genuinely concerning to see the ways that genuine connections could be made within our community, but aren’t because of the lack of empathy we choose to show each other. I watch groups of people push pass AVI workers, throw trash on the ground and remark that it’s “not their job to clean it up;” there’s been a dismissal of why we should be kind to administrators at the college if we disagree with their choices, and dismiss the genuine hard work that individuals are putting in every day. These are people, they are living lives just like you, and they have struggles just like you. A simple word of gratitude can make an individual's entire day, so why ignore the chance to make that simple human interaction? Even if you don’t always agree with someone or see things the way they do, there is always room for kindness to grow, for that kindness could lead to genuine changes.

Walking into my Spanish class on a random Thursday afternoon, I was confronted by a man who never gave me his name, but worked maintenance at the college. He asked if I was excited to go home for break, and we chatted for a while about the duality of living close to home and attending a school like Kenyon. He told me that just because you come from a place like this, you can go on to do so many great things with the opportunities that Kenyon provides for you. I looked at him, a man I had known for just moments and said, “I sure hope so.” It was at that moment that I realized, if a man I had known for such a short amount of time could care so much about someone he barely knew, why couldn’t we all? If Kenyon is here to provide us with a platform from which to succeed, maybe the lessons we should be learning here should not just reside in our distributions but in the life lessons we collect along the way, too—this semester, the lesson I’m taking away from this little hill we reside on is kindness. I hope others will join me in taking away that same lesson. 

Image Credit: Feature, 1, 23