One day a teacher asked her students to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name.
Then she told them to think of the nicest thing that they could say about each of their classmates and write it down. It took the remainder of the class period to finish their assignment and as the students left the room, each one handed in the papers.
That Saturday, the teacher wrote down the name of each student on a separate piece of paper and listed what everyone else had said about that individual. On Monday, she gave each student his or her list. Before long, the entire class was smiling.
No one ever mentioned those papers in class again. The teacher never knew if the students discussed them after class or with their parents. But, it didn’t matter. The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were happy with themselves and one another. That group of students moved on the next year.
Several years later, Mark one of the students was killed in Vietnam and the teacher attended his funeral. The church was packed with his friends. One by one those who loved him took a last walk by the coffin. The teacher was the last to bless the coffin.
As she stood there, one of the soldiers who had acted as a pall bearer came up to her. “Were you Mark’s maths teacher?” he asked. She nodded. Then he said, “Mark talked about you a lot.”
After the funeral, Mark’s mother and father approached the teacher. “We want to show you something,” his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket. “They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognise it.”
He opened his wallet and carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times. The teacher knew without even looking that the papers were the ones on which she had listed all the good things each of Mark’s classmates had said about him.
“Thank you so much for doing that,” Mark’s mother said. “As you can see, Mark treasured it.” All of Mark’s former classmates started to gather around. Charlie, one of the classmates, smiled rather sheepishly and said, “I still have my list. It’s in the top draw of my desk at home.”
One by one, Mark’s former classmates admitted that they too had kept their lists. Then Vicky, another classmate, reached into her handbag, took out her wallet and showed her worn and tattered list to the group. “I carry this with me at all times,” Vicky said and then she continued, “I think we all saved our lists.”
That’s when the teacher finally sat down and cried. She cried for the remarkable effect that her simple exercise, so long ago, had on each student.
Never doubt that you make a difference in the world, or the power of kind words to touch a soul. Our words can be bullets or seeds. Let’s make them seeds. You may not always see the seeds of your kindness grow, but never doubt that they do.
What kind words can you write down about yourself to make your own list and where will you keep it so that you can look at it often?
And finally, never miss an opportunity to tell the people that you love and care for that they are special and important to you and how you feel about them.