I was walking across the hilly campus. It was finals week of spring semester. One of my last days at that particular university, as I'd chosen to transfer to a new school for the following year. It was a sunny day. Windy. I was smiling to myself. Grateful that my finals thus far had gone well and that I was almost done with that place. In a hurry to get back to my dorm room while my socially awkward roommate was still in class so I could pack without avoiding painful conversation.
As I came up one of the hills, I noticed a girl, just sitting on a bench. She had her head in her hands. Her backpack and books sitting next to her on the bench. I watched her as I continued up the hill. As I came closer, I realized she was crying. Like heart-wrenching, whole body sobs.
I wondered why she was so upset. A bombed final? A death? Boyfriend troubles? Who knows.
She didn't seem to notice me, or anyone else who was walking by. But certainly no one could miss her.
My gut was to stop and offer her comfort. Even if it was just a body to sit near her while she cried.
But I didn't. I kept walking. I hope someone else stopped. But it wasn't me.
I'm not sure what stopped me. I had things to do. There were other people around. She was a stranger. Social norms. Fear of her not wanting me to bother her. I don't know.
17.5 years later and I still remember that girl. 17.5 years later and I still regret not stopping and checking on her.
I know it's not my job to save the world (though, really, social worker over here, I mean, it's kind of one of our things). But I've carried this regret around for nearly half my life. Because that little moment of kindness, could have made a difference to her. And, maybe it wouldn't have. But I'll never know.
I do know it's part of why I so want my boys, above all, to be kind and care for others.
So, we are as last year, focusing on kindness and caring for others this Christmas season. We have a family from the Christmas Tree (a single mom of 5 with another on the way!) who we'll get gifts and Christmas dinner for, we'll go through the kids' toys and donate ones they no longer need (and are, of course, in good condition), we'll make cookies for neighbors and the firefighters (that was a huge hit last year!), and I don't know what else.
I especially hope we'll all take advantage of the day-to-day moments we're presented with to let others know we care. Not just at Christmas time, but all the time.
What is your family doing to care for others this holiday season? I'd love to get some new ideas!
Today's Lesson: We should always listen to our inner voices. Often the things we most regret could have been prevented if only we had.