In my life, I was brought up to have manners, be respectful, and always be mindful to others – I was brought up to be a model citizen. It was to my understanding that everyone’s mothers and fathers were doing the same things as my mom; I found out this was not the case. I am seventeen years old and I remember a time when I was reminded of the kindness of others: a time when, even in the darkest of places, there was a glimmer of light for me to see the way. I believe that there is kindness in the world; I know that this place isn’t so bad.
It was January 18, 2009, and I was in Washington D.C. I remember the date because it was just two days before the Presidential Inauguration. I was with my National Young Scholars group, taking a tour around the memorials. We were selected on account of intelligence, dedication to-wards the education system, and willingness to better our community. Here we were in the capital of our great nation – the place where the President lived, the place where everything big was decided, the place where the “elite” belonged – and, honestly, I kind of felt overqualified.
We’re taught always to show our manners– “excuse me,” “pardon me”– and have respect towards other–“yes, sir,” “yes, ma’am,” “no, sir,” “no, ma’am”– and here I was, Washington D.C. of all places, and I was surrounded by the rudest people I had ever seen. People were pushing people as they walked by; insults about someone’s mother came in one ear and out the other. I was distraught.
Just as I was about to give up hope on the country I believed in so wholeheartedly, a man with a cane strolled by and stopped in front of me. “Excuse me, little man. I’ll be out of your way in a second,” he said, looking down on me with a half smirk. Next thing I know, the man gets out his own wallet and puts a crisp $100 bill in a homeless man’s hands. Then, he walked away. This smelly, ragged-looking man – he had to be around 45 or so – seemed ever so pleased with this man’s actions. And so was I.
A couple days rolled by, and the day of the Presidential Inauguration arrived. Afterwards, we saw a motivational speaker: the man from two days prior. The stranger introduced himself as Erik Weihenmayer, a blind man who climbed Mt. Everest (at that moment, I finally realized his “cane” wasn’t a cane at all). He told us about how being blind actually gave him an advantage in life. He said that everyone nowadays judges others by how he/she perceives them. By not being able to see, he’s maintained his moral sense of right and wrong. He told us about his charity work, how he has kept believing in himself, and how we should never let anyone tell us what we can and can’t do.
Here I am, almost six years later, and his words still keep me going. By knowing that he’s still out there, speaking to scared children – just as I was those few years ago – I know that we’re slowly getting better. I know that with him doing what he’s doing, kids will believe in kindness again. That’s why I make it my duty to stay positive and spread kindness to those I meet; I know Erik wouldn’t expect anything less of me. I believe in finding the kindness of others. I believe everyone can find the incentive to better him/herself. This I believe.