We had an exercise in Mrs. Hildreth's class
High school English. Junior year.
Once each semester she would pass out little scraps of paper.
On the scraps she had written the names of other students
with whom we'd shared class for the past months.
Our assignment was to make observations about
the person whose name was written on the scrap.
She collected the notes.
And passed them back out to us.
The first time she explained what we were going to do
I got sick to my stomach.
I didn't want to stay in class.
I was gripped with this irrational fear
all the same, very real to me
and I almost approached her desk to ask for
permission to leave class.
I was distressed at the thought of how I would handle
the hurtful things I might read
in my classmates comments.
I imagined myself sitting at my desk, unfolding and reading the comments
trying to act nonchalant
all the while dying inside
wanting to cry.
I should have had more faith in my classmates.
And more faith in me.
"Likes to make people laugh"
"I think you're probably shy but you still aren't afraid to speak up"
"Good writer. I like it when you read your work out loud."
Were they really talking about me?
Who wrote these nice things, I wondered?
I had no clue anyone in class felt these nice things about me.
I read the notes scribbled on those little scraps of paper once and tucked them deep into my purse.
Over the coming weeks, I read them over and over.
Is that really me? Am I really those things?
The comments put a smile on my face
and confidence in my toolbox.
Even the smallest compliments are like pebbles dropped in a body of water.
There is no measuring the extent to which the ripples may multiply
goodness into the heart of someone
who might feel like just another faded flower on the wallpaper.