Monday did not start well for my nine-year-old daughter.
When she arrived at school, she saw a girl handing out invitations to her birthday party. My daughter didn’t get one. She has Aspergers and is different from other girls her age. Making friends is a struggle for her.
I felt so sad as I walked back to my car. It breaks your heart as a parent to see your child feeling left out in the schoolyard. But how much can you do?
But when I went to pick up my daughter yesterday afternoon, she was practically glowing with joy. She had a huge grin on her face. She couldn’t stop herself from jumping up and down.
“Mum, Mum, I’ve got something to show you! It was World Kindness Day today, and look what I got!”
She thrust a sheet of paper at me. It had her name on it, and around her name, people had written things. Kind things.
“Creative, kind, smart.” “Amazing, a good friend, an amazing writer.” “Smart and awesome.” “Nice and kind.” “Super creative.” “Lovely.” “Friend.”
My daughter pointed at one of the sentences, praising her writing ability.
“My teacher wrote this,” she told me. “I had to leave the classroom.”
“Why?” I asked.
But they were ten tears of joy.
I remember our class doing something like this when I was at school, in about Year Nine. We all had to write something we liked about each of our classmates on scraps of paper. I read what people wrote about me, and it was nice, but it didn’t make a huge impact. I had my three friends. We weren’t cool, but we had each other and we were okay.
I remember my teacher saying at the time that she did this exercise every year. Once, she’d been walking down the street, and had met a girl who’d left school years earlier and had had a really tough time of things. The girl had reached into her bag and pulled out the scraps of paper.
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“I still have these,” the girl had said to the teacher. “I still read them. They make me feel better.”
One cruel thing someone says can have an impact that lasts forever. But I think sometimes we forget that one kind thing someone says, also, can have an impact that lasts forever.
I know teachers have a lot they need to cover in a school day. But I am so glad my daughter’s teacher set aside an hour or so yesterday to get kids to write kind things about each other.
I have my daughter’s sheet of paper in front of me right now. I can see she’s added little comments to the things kids have written. “Wow!” “Thanks!” “Thank you!”
This sheet of paper is going up on the wall, as a reminder to my daughter and to me. She may not get invited to many birthday parties, but she is “awesome” and she is “lovely” and she is “a good friend”.