Back in December, I had the privilege of speaking at TEDxYouth@CEHS alongside Steve Wessler, a human rights educator, trainer, and advocate. His talk, “Having Courage When You’re Scared”  moved me so much, and one story he shared was particularly powerful.

He told us about a high school boy who noticed another student standing in the doorway as a crowd of other students passed by, leaving the school on a spring day, oblivious to this girl even though they had to walk right by her. She looked miserable, like she had the entire weight of the world on her shoulders. As he walked by her, he simply said, “I hope you have a good afternoon.” She didn’t respond as one would expect, her eyes opening wide, and so he looked her in the eyes and said again, “I really hope you have a good afternoon. And I really hope you’re going to do okay.” The next day, on his answering machine was a message from this girl thanking him. She had been planning to go home that day and commit suicide. His simple act of connection and kindness was enough to stop her.

I heard Steve’s talk the same day that I heard about the heartbreaking suicide of Jacintha Saldanha, a nurse, wife, and mother, who was on the receiving end of a prank perpetrated by two Australian deejays. The deejays impersonated the Queen of England and Prince Charles in a phone call to the hospital where Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, was recovering from severe morning sickness. Jacintha was the nurse who answered the phone and, falling for the hoax, patched the call in to the nurse caring for the Kate Middleton. Jacintha killed herself shortly after.

One young woman saved; another woman dead. One the recipient of kindness; the other a recipient of an unkind, thoughtless joke.

How little it can sometimes take to have such a huge impact on another person. How powerful our smallest choices can be.

Please be kind.

~ Zoe

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDxConejo talk: “Solutionaries”
My TEDxDirigo talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach

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