A recent post on Facebook profiles five boys who befriended a challenged student. It was a good story – the boys were kind and a fine friendship developed. The challenged student’s life was improved as were the lives of his five friends.
The story isn’t unusual though. Bullying is common but little acts of kindness lurk in the shadows. Students with disabilities are easy targets but there are also kind kids, mature beyond their years, who step in and make everybody’s life richer. And they grow up into kind, compassionate adults.
Years ago, I worked with a mentally challenged young man. During the winter, the Grade 4 and Grade 5 classes went skating at the local arena several times. He didn’t know how to skate and didn’t want to go, but after some head banging and hair pulling (ours, not his) off he went, head bent, skates dragging. Like magic, a little Grade 4 girl fell in step. She asked him if she could carry his skates. “Come on,” she said, “I’ll help you.” Every skating day she carried his skates, skated with him and they had fun. Thank you, little girl. You made a difference.
In high school, one of our challenged students wanted a bag of chips from the food dispensing machine. She put in her money but the chips, which were to be her lunch, got stuck. A popular senior stepped in, put his money in the machine, hit the chips button and out came two bags of chips. He handed one to our student and opened the other. “You didn’t really want chips, did you?” I asked. “Chips are OK,” he said, and off he went to join his friends. Thank you, handsome young man. You made a difference.
I remember too many incidents like this to mention. There were students who helped on cooking day; students who dropped in to read or help with academics, in-school work experience projects, or craft projects. Some came and shared their lunch hours with our students. They came because they were nice people. And they made a difference.
The interesting thing is, none of these students were the school’s celebrated stars. They didn’t win academic, athletic or citizenship awards. But they were confident, compassionate and great company. They are still nice people, all grown up and raising another generation of kind and helpful little people. These silent guardians are the ones who really make a difference.