The Only Thing That’s Real

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about my son going to High School next year and how we had discovered a boy who had been bullying him for years would be at the same school. I will admit I panicked. I never have a reasonable reaction to bullying because I have seen some kids crushed because of it.

There have been some developments since then. I have been overwhelmed by kindness. It has come from an unexpected source. It has come from the High School Principal. This is a woman who doesn’t know me, doesn’t know my child, but who has treated us both with such respect and care that I am almost lost for words.

I have had coffee in her office. I have had lengthy conversations with her. I have been surprised to discover that she is a teacher in the true sense of the word in that she regards teaching as a vocation not just as a job. And she is concerned for the welfare of every child enrolled at her school.

I had misgivings about sending Nick to that school, I really did. But now I don’t. The principal has single-handedly restored my faith. She has assured me Nick will be all right and I believe her. Her kindness, her taking the time to reassure me, has convinced me more than any form of rhetoric ever could.

We’ll take High School one step at a time, but for now I feel confident in her ability to manage any situation that may arise.

Which brings me to something close to my heart – the nature of kindness.

I think it takes a lot of courage to be kind, to step up and help another person. To go out of your way.

It’s sad, but people aren’t used to kindness anymore. They are suspicious of strangers who offer them aid. They are often equally suspicious of people they know who carry out an act of kindness towards them. My neighbour, who is very wealthy, believes her daughter is so kind to her because she is protecting her inheritance. A friend believes, quite firmly, that her husband is only kind to her when he has been up to something.

There is something beautiful about kindness, something poised and graceful that takes us aback. It is probably the most selfless act we can perform for another, and because it is an act for which we expect nothing in return, it is prone to arouse suspicion in others.

I mean, no one does anything for nothing these days, right?

The High School Principal need not have gone out of her way for me. Her quota for next year has already been filled. She could have said: ‘That’s your problem, not mine’ or ‘You’re carrying on about nothing.’ She could have shown that she didn’t care. But instead, she chose to be kind.

When I encounter or receive an act of kindness I feel lucky, blessed. I am reminded that the gods have not forsaken me. And I look for kind acts everywhere I go, still hardly daring to believe that someone, somewhere whom I may or may not know might perform an act of kindness that I can witness. There is brightness, purity in the realisation. 

When kindness is bestowed upon me, I want to bestow it upon others. It seems to be the nature of it – it gets into your blood, urging you to be better than you thought you could.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox said something so beautiful about kindness that reading it often brings me to tears:


So many gods, so many creeds, 
So many paths that wind and wind, 
While just the art of being kind 
Is all the sad world needs. 

She’s right, isn’t she? It’s all the world needs. Forget about the greed, and brutality, and despair, and hatred we read about every day. It’s those little stories of kindness happening the world over that should be making the headlines. They are a salve, a balm, fragments of the divine. And in an increasingly disconnected world, perhaps they are the only thing that’s real.

23 thoughts on “The Only Thing That’s Real

  1. It’s true you know, we tend to look suspiciously on random acts of kindness. But it’s true if you accept them, you tend to pay them forward.

    (And I’d be up the wall with worry about the bullying too, it’s just not right.)


  2. Salve!

    (Sorry; I’m just in from the re-enactment, and it hasn’t worn off yet)

    It would seem that Nick has really landed on his feet here … a school with a Principal who sees her job as to educate, rather than just to teach! Treasure her … as I treasure Miss Hibbert, (primary school teacher), Mr Shields (Geography), Mr. Burton (English) and Mr. Rollinson (History and Latin) … the only teachers I ever really respected.

    I fear many teachers set out with good intentions, but quickly become disillusioned by teaching stuff to kids who don’t want to learn. I’m glad to hear of one who hasn’t gone that way.


  3. I must admit, I am one of those suspicious souls who is always a bit wary/skeptical when someone does something “just to be kind” on my behalf. I guess I’ve been ‘kicked in the head’ for lack of a better term, too many times in life already, when I didn’t see it coming.

    I find that my gut instincts about a particular person are usually the best indicator as to their true character and what’s behind their actions. That ‘still small voice’ that should never be forgotten. In retrospect, when I have ignored it, it was usually not a good decision on my part. Our soul, our intuition is always there if we learn to tune into it.

    I truly hope your son is safe, protected and happy in his high school environment. It should be a glorious carefree time in life. It was for me. I will never forget the fun I had or the wonderful, loyal friends who made each day so memorable.

    Have a great Sunday, G 🙂


  4. Well, thank the heavens above. I’m so relieved to hear the Principal has taken Nick under her wing. He’ll be okay now. Phew!

    As far as kindness. It is indeed sad that people are suspicious of others’ kind deeds. I think the suspicion could mirror something within themselves. Are their intentions always honorable? As for me, I try to show kindness in as many ways as I can each day. Even the smallest of ways. I’m not usually suspicious of another’s kindness unless there’s a history there – if you know what I mean.

    I’m so happy for you and Nick! 😀


  5. Selma, As I read about your concern for your son, I could not help but think back to when our oldest son was in high school and the victim of a bully. Our son was blond, slight and with incredibly long eyelashes: the perfect victim. Finally, in desperation, my husband told him something to the effect. . . “You may take a beating, but the next time this happens,hit him and hit him as hard as you can right in the gut”. Well, my son did come home with a bruise or two, but he come home having won the respect of not only the bully, but the entire school. He was never again the target of any bully.


  6. I read this post and felt a deep sense of relief for you and your son. People will complain that school officials are overpaid (at least we hear that kind of thing in the States), but honestly, if everyone had to deal with the kind of crap they do, I think that view might shift a bit.

    Kindness… I find myself attempting to be kind as often as possible, and getting that “what are you up to” attitude.

    I blame a lot of that on television. So much is watched, and worse, believed to be the true view of humanity, that few can accept the fact that what is shown on the small screen is an exaggeration.

    Or maybe I’m just feeling a bit cynical right now.

    It also feels like when we fought for our equal rights, we also closed the door on manners and kindness, calling them chauvanistic, rather than civil. Not that I have a problem with equality, but can we please have manners and kindness back along with them?


  7. i am really thrilled to have this essay to read at precisely this moment in time.. i too have been wondering about what exactly qualifies as an act of kindness,,,

    this principals act of kindness,, in essence is what she is called upon to do,, but doing so because she desires to has made all the difference in your feelings…

    thank you for sharing this with me,, i really needed to hear this…


  8. You are really lucky to have a Principal like that in your son’s school. I know my son had a rough year in 5th grade with bullies, it practically broke his spirit.

    My son will be starting 7th grade this year and he’s a lot more confident than he was in 5th grade. But, I hope he has an understanding principal in his new school.

    I am totally freaking out that he is even in 7th grade,



  9. NAT – I know, it’s not right. I’ve actually had teachers say to me:’Everyone gets bullied. That’s just the way it is.’ But it needn’t be that way. I just can’t accept that. It’s like saying to a woman: ‘You’re going to get sexually harassed in the workplace. Just deal with it.’ Why are people so afraid of tackling these issues?

    And I’m all for paying it forward when it comes to kindness. It’s the only way to go.

    TRAVELRAT – teaching is becoming increasingly difficult these days. I should know. One of the problems is that people often study it as an afterthought. ‘Oh, I didn’t get into Law at Uni. I know, I’ll become a teacher.’ I have worked with many people like that whose hearts were just not in it. But this Principal is one of the old guard – you don’t see teachers of that ilk much anymore. It’s heartening.

    GERALDINE – Amen & Hallelujah for gut instincts. They have proven to be right time and time again for me. When I have ignored that little voice in my head I have made decisions that often ended in catastrophe (or at least a bit of drama). We have to learn to trust our intuition.

    EPIPHANY -I’m with you. I try to be kind wherever I am. It does make you feel better, doesn’t it? And I know what you mean about the ‘history’ part. Some people just can’t be trusted.

    MARY – that is fantastic advice. It’s a shame to say it, but sometimes it’s the only way. I don’t really think turning the other cheek works – you just get punched on both sides of your face instead of only one. Nick has a bit of a mean right hook. I think he should start using it.

    KAREN – manners and respect for one another have definitely gone out the window. It is something I notice with a lot of kids in Nick’s class – how impolite some of them are. But then their parents are impolite and self-obsessed too, so what should I expect? Yeah, I do think the media is to blame. Not much accentuating the positive anymore. I guess feelgood stories don’t rate as highly as tragedy and violence. Bit of a shame.

    PAISLEY – after I wrote this I read your piece on doing unto others and I was amazed that we were following the same line of thought. Great minds, my dear. Tina Turner sang it in the Thunderdome – We Don’t Need Another Hero. She was right. We just need more people to engage in acts of kindness.

    MELEAH – Nick will be in 7th Grade too which they call Year 7 here. Our school years run differently to yours – we start at the end of January and run till mid-December. I’m sorry JCH had that problem with the bullies – it’s so hard to watch, isn’t it? I wish him much luck and a lot of fun, new experiences in the 7th grade. It is scary though. I know. Hugs to both of you.


  10. A kindness given,I have found, always comes back,so we should learn to accept it for what it is.
    Bullies aren’t quite ready for this,they must learn respect first,and the first step is to beat them at their own game,then show them what kindness is.
    I’m sure Nick will be fine.
    Unfortunately we meet bullies in one form or other our whole lives,maybe it’s good for him to learn how to deal with them early.
    I wish you and Nick strength.


  11. I’ve got a simple theory. 95% of people all over the world have different cultures, but their humanity, concern and kindness is shared. All the trouble in the world is the result of the remaining 5%. It’s just that they get all the headlines. But the world isn’t theirs.


  12. DAOINE – it is a huge relief. YAY.

    DIAMONDS – I know what you mean. I have a couple of friends who are currently experiencing bullying in the workplace. It’s dreadful. You do have to learn to beat the bullies at their own game. Very good advice!

    ANTHONY – that 5% cause so much trouble, don’t they? I really like your analysis. You are quite right!


  13. Ooh I love what Anthony just said.

    I am so happy you have had your mind put to rest about this Selma. I know how terrifying it is to have one of your kids bullied.

    I heard a troubling thing from one of my daughters the other day. In the subject Health, they are talking a lot about bullying which is great. There is a boy in their class who is a great kid but he has an intellectual disability which makes him act out in class. Anyway he was being his usual self and the teacher said in front of the whole class “No wonder you don’t have any friends Alex”.

    My daughter Chelsea was incensed and immediately stood up for him and said “yes he does, he has lots of friends”. A lot of the other kids also concurred. Isn’t what she said a kind of bullying in itself? What she said was designed to humiliate the boy and as far as I’m concerned that’s bullying. What hope do the kids have when the teachers themselves do it.


  14. Yay for Nick and you. I’m sure that that was a great relief to you. I totally agree with your acts of kindness, I am blessed by them right now. Sometimes you are apprehensive because you think what does this person want in return. But you just have to accept it just the way it came…


  15. Kindness springs from humility and this is the most powerful force in the universe, I believe. Unfortunately, in this day and age, it is hard to distinguish between a sincere one and one that hides an agenda. Here in the U.S., you could get sued for showing kindness to strangers. You read it in the news all the time. This creates an unspoken distance between people. It’s sad.


  16. GYPSY – Chelsea is an absolute darling. Oh, we need more kids like her in the school system. I’m not surprised she is like that considering how kind her Mum is!

    TBALL – accepting the kindness is really important. I think that deep down, most people want to help others. XXX

    CHRIS – it is so sad. And it does spring from humility, which is also rare in this day and age. But I take heart from the fact that despite our best efforts kindness hasn’t been wiped out. It is a force to be reckoned with!

    DAOINE – Gypsy does have amazing daughters, but then she is amazing herself!

    GYPSY – you should be proud of her. Good on you, Chelsea!


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