Over thirty years ago I had an experience as a child that I've never forgotten.
It was time to go out to recess, not my favorite time of the day, especially in the middle of a cold Alaskan winter. I was one of the last children to leave the classroom that afternoon and when I went to the mud room to get on my gear there were two girls from my class standing off to one side, talking.
I could feel their eyes on my back as I put on my coat, my hat and my gloves. I slipped off my keds and put my right foot into my snow boot--thick rubber soled with a removable liner and zipper up the front--the kind we all wore. I put my foot in and discovered the inside bottom of my boot was filled with cold, wet snow.
The girls behind me were giggling and whispering waiting with anticipation, I'm sure, for my dismayed reaction.
When I put the second boot on, the inside of it was exactly the same. I turned around to leave. A hushed silence descended and the two girls stared at each other with questioning eyes, and again at me. I could feel their confusion and disappointment. I kept my head held high--my face impassive--as if nothing was amiss and left the room. I walked down the hall to the door leading outside to the playground. Outwardly I looked fine. Inwardly I was crying. The freezing snow soaked through my socks to my skin.
Outside the building I went around the corner to a spot by myself and took off my boots to shake out the snow. I had no idea why those girls had chosen me to be their target that day for their childish prank. It was a relative little thing, and by the end of that school year we were all good friends, but I've never forgotten the feeling of hurt I experienced. A feeling of being unexpectedly shoved out of my comfortable-normal-self to a place of insecurity and self-doubt for no reason that I knew.
Do we realize how easily a seemingly insignificant thing we might do or say can affect another person?
I consider myself a confident person, secure in my strengths and well aware of my weaknesses which I view as a challenge for self-improvement and growth. Then why more than thirty years after that experience can I clearly remember how I felt inside, and how it hurt. I'm sure that incident is a long-forgotten memory, if a memory at all, of those two girls.
What we do and say to others matters a lot.
"Real charity is not something you give away; it is something that you acquire and make a part of yourself. When we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.
None of us need one more person bashing or pointing out where we have failed or fallen short. Most of us are already well aware of the areas in which we are weak. What each of us does need is family, friends, employers, and brothers and sisters who support us, who have the patience to teach us, who believe in us, and who believe we’re trying to do the best we can, in spite of our weaknesses. What ever happened to giving each other the benefit of the doubt? What ever happened to hoping that another person would succeed or achieve? What ever happened to rooting for each other?
Be one who nurtures and who builds. Be one who has an understanding and a forgiving heart, who looks for the best in people. Leave people better than you found them. Be fair with your competitors, whether in business, athletics, or elsewhere. Don’t get drawn into some of the parlance of our day and try to “win” by intimidation or by undermining someone’s character. Lend a hand to those who are frightened, lonely, or burdened.
If we could look into each other’s hearts and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other much more gently, with more love, patience, tolerance, and care."-Marvin J. Ashton, “The Tongue Can Be a Sharp Sword,” Ensign, May 1992, 18