Sunday, January 17, 2016
BEING KINDER by Susan Harris
The profile picture was blank and I had not seen a post from Charlie since 2012, but earlier this month, Facebook notified me that it was his birthday. I grimaced, not wanting to pass up the opportunity to wish an old classmate cheers of the day but unsure if he even visited his own page. Two hours later I was still thinking about it so quickly I typed a simple “Happy Birthday” on Charlie’s timeline.
Back in high school our form teacher had “punished” me and my friend, Cindy, by putting Charlie to sit between us so we’d talk less. Intelligent, quiet, nerdy Charlie. At first, he was open to the suggestion of exchanging seats so us girls could be together, but gradually he refused. He had become quite interested in our girl talk and enjoyed being included in the conversations.
A dozen years later I ran into him one Sunday evening at an ATM location. His welcome was so exuberant that I could not find the shy, quiet teenager I last knew him to be.
“Can I take you for dinner?” he asked after the exclamations of what the years had done to each of us had concluded. I gestured to my car where four young ladies were waiting. “No, I’m speaking at a church tonight and my friends and I are on our way there.”
“Tomorrow then?” He sounded really sincere so I had to tell him the truth.
“I don’t go out alone with guys, Charlie. Sorry, but how about coming to church with us.”
Charlie glanced at my left hand, ignored the invitation to church, then piped up. “Bring your husband then.”
I giggled and shook my head. I did not know how serious he was, but I was so surprised at this loud, extroverted engineer that Charlie had become that I needed time to adjust to that change before I introduced a husband at a dinner table. I glanced at my watch then bade him goodbye, smiling at his parting words “I don’t know how I let the good girls slip out of my hands at high school."
On the evening of writing the birthday greeting, I was astonished to see a notification that Charlie had liked and commented on my post. “Thanks for remembering, Susan. It’s that time again, and like you, I reflect on ….”
How did Charlie know I reflect the way I do? It turned out that all these years he, without a picture on social media, had followed my posts. Without leaving any trace of a like or comment. Pretty much like I do on a lot of posts I read. Pretty much like a lot of people do on posts that impact and challenge their lives. We move on when we could be kinder by letting the person know what an encouragement their words had been.
I’ve not made New Year resolutions over the last ten years or so and I’m not making one this year. But I am interested in being kinder, in reaching out to the ones on the sidelines, the less popular and visible, as a new beginning.
What about you?
SUSAN HARRIS is an author, speaker and former teacher. http://susanharris.ca
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