We at B Kind are fortunate enough to work with an intern for a few weeks. He is a wonderful young man with a bright future ahead of him. Our intern, Bailey O'Mara, is a graduating senior from Darien High School and will be playing Division 1 water polo in the fall for Fordham University. He has written for us three articles on kindness - The Kindness Series. "James" is the first of three and is based on Bailey's own personal experience.
Kindness is a fundamental part of human happiness and is an innate ability to motivate, comfort, and share a profound sense of affection.Without kindness life would be bleak and unfulfilling. A natural sense of warmth is derived from feeling kind and making your fellow human happy. A recent experience with kindness made me reconsider the impact we have as humans on one another, and this is that story.
James Wilson*, one of hundreds of students living in Norwalk, Connecticut, is constantly working to balance his dedication to school work with all the opportunities to shut down, stop studying, and turn towards drugs or alcohol. The influence of drug abuse in and out of school is rampant, teenagers no older than 13 hiding marijuana in their sunglasses cases and fueling their addiction to nicotine with juul and vaporizers. These are his peers, and their slowly increasing detrimental influences are reflected in James’ change from an excellent student in Middle School to a less than scholarly start in High School.
James has every reason to create excuses for his decline. He could blame the distractions of living in high density housing, a 2 bedroom apartment with four other siblings. He could blame the bullying and the thugs who beat him up on the train tracks after school. He could blame his family’s low income.Yet, James isn’t an ordinary kid, he looks past all of this blaming no one and nothing, instead working to correct his academic trajectory.
I am James’ volunteer tutor at Norwalk Grassroots Tennis and Education, a program for underprivileged youth in Norwalk, a seemingless insignificant part of his life compared to the hundreds of daily stressors and temptations he encounters. An hour a day of studying, doing homework, and working has a large opportunity cost, he could be playing football with friends, or making money trading clothes. For me, James was an amazing guy, even though he was routinely late and chronically sassy, I appreciated his ability to overcome obstacles and his friendly demeanor.
James is a young, slightly chubby, mixed race teenager, one of many in his area. It would be easy for him to fall through the educational cracks unnoticed. In February, on our first meeting, he was 15 minutes late, unprepared without his homework, and obviously unenthusiastic. His recent difficulty in school had clearly caused him to waver in his love of learning. He was passing only three of his five classes, and didn’t have a concrete work routine. Although he wasn’t ecstatic about working with me, we had a mutual understanding to dedicate our time to work.
Months passed of two day weekly meetings, and hours of homework. Over the time we grew to be a solid team, catching up on our day at school, getting work done, cracking jokes, and shaking hands goodbye at the end of each session. As the school year wound down, we played basketball for 15 minutes at the end of each session, growing to be friends.
Summer rolled around 12 months ago and the tutoring stopped because of new academic and athletic commitments. With a new year and new obligations, there was no time when our schedules aligned. James was on his own this school year. A few weeks ago my mother and her friend were eating lunch when a woman approached her, Helene, one of the women who run the tutoring organization. As she talked to my mother about my work with James tears began to well up in her eyes. My impact had extended much farther than I had believed. For me it was two hours a week of extra homework and sitting down to help James’ organization skills, but for James it was much more.
According to Helene, this year James had become kinder, a more reliable student, and an approachable person. James began passing classes again, staying out of fights, and showing up to study on time. This story is one of many, not unique.
A simple act of kindness each week can have repercussions that extend into the future and into the lives of more than just one other person. The ability to dedicate a seemingly insignificant amount of your life to another person through tutoring, raising money, or organizing supply drives, can change the lives of many. I urge you to consider your possible impact on your community, your friends, your family, and everyone in between, and donate your time to show them kindness today.
* James Wilson is a fictional name created to protect the student’s real identity.
By Bailey (B Kind Intern)