I have a colleague who is one of the kindest people I know. She puts other people first all the time, and, as a teacher, puts her heart and soul into teaching and supporting students. Due to her incredibly positive nature, I feel like a monster criticizing her.
But it was due to her that I developed my philosophy about how politeness becomes rudeness. It came about when she held the door for me at the entrance of the school. Of course, this is a polite thing to do. UNLESS the person is very far away. This induces the person to feel like they need to speed up, perhaps even run. Even if the person says, “You don’t need to run,” it’s hard not to feel like you are inconveniencing the person holding the door.
A similar thing happens at four-way stop signs. Now, sometimes who should go next can be confusing: two or more people may get to the signs at almost the same moment. What I’m talking about is when someone clearly gets there first but starts to wave people through. I don’t think this is helpful. There is a clear pattern that works and should be followed. Breaking that pattern just confuses everyone, and cars buck forward and stop as each person tries to go. It looks like a bunch of wildebeest pretending to charge each other, and no one knows which one is dominant.
I believe in kindness, and I am a polite person. I am so polite, indeed, that I know when kindness warps into rudeness.
I started noticing these painted stones on hikes during the pandemic. The messages were always encouraging, sometimes heartwarming, sometimes funny. I loved the sense I got of the person behind them: empathic, positive, artistic and creative.
Though it is only a painted stone, for a moment I felt connected to someone else, a person who wished me well, just as I did them. This is an important feeling to have, and these stones genuinely helped me on my way.
I’m happy someone is still painting them. We still need these messages of hope and solace.
I was not born a “go getter”. No one in school called me a “try hard”. I was easily frustrated by challenging experiences, and just got mad instead of trying to overcome the issue. As far as school went, math exemplified this. I can still remember angrily throwing my textbook, it flying through the room, hard covers and pages unfurling like layered wings.
Although I would usually still succeed, I didn’t always. I failed classes. Friends and family realized I was unreliable, guilty of promising things and not seeing them through. A lazy dreamer who napped to solve problems. (Spoiler alert: problems are still there when you wake back up).
It took really screwing up several times, then nearly losing my first teaching job, before I finally changed my course.