Be Someone's Fred: A Story About the Power of Kindness

"Be Kind" written in chalk

Have you ever had one of those moments that completely change your perspective on life? One of those moments that make you yearn to be a different, improved version of yourself?

Well, let me tell you about one of mine.

Regular day. Freshman year. A couple of my friends, let’s call them Fred and Christopher, and I were walking together in the hallway, as we did every day after class, same as always.

Well, I should probably preface this with a brief introduction of my freshman-year self. What you need to know is that I was a very slow walker (trust me, it’s important to the story). And before you say anything, I would like to make it abundantly clear that this was not my fault! First of all, I was a nerdy little thing (still am) weighed down by a colossal backpack, so that was bound to slow me down. Plus, I’m a short person, so my legs just don’t cover as much distance in a single stride as all of you tall people. And I guess, more importantly, I had chronic pain in my knees, so walking was just not something that I could do at a normal speed. That’s all you need to know for now, so let’s go back to my life-changing moment.

That day, the pain in my knees was much worse than usual, and so I was really starting to fall behind Fred and Christopher. Usually, I walked about 2-3 steps behind them, but that day, it was starting to look more like half-of-a-hallway behind them. By this point, I was used to getting left behind by my friends whenever they needed to get to class or even when they simply got bored of walking at my pace. So I accepted defeat, and stopping pushing myself to my limit just to keep up with them.

Fred noticed.

Christopher was oblivious, but Fred saw me struggling and he went out of his way to make me feel included. I watched from across the hallway as Fred stopped and pretended to be extremely interested in a poster that was up on the wall. Fred’s not a good actor, but his performance was convincing enough for Christopher to stop too and look at the poster with him. This was my opportunity to get back in the conversation, and I did. I caught up with them, and we walked on. End of story.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. And you’re right. Hardly anything even happened. Fred just saw me lagging behind and so he stopped for a second, pretending to do something else so I wouldn’t feel embarrassed, and let me catch up with him and Christopher.

But I can’t explain to you how much it meant to me in the moment. I felt like I was worth waiting for. Like I wasn’t a burden. All of this, just because a guy waited for me one time in a hallway.

So why was this moment so life-altering, you ask? Because I realized that an action as seemingly meaningless as Fred’s had undeniable power. By making me feel the way I did that day, Fred’s tiny act of kindness forced me to consider how every single one of my actions could affect the people around me. All of a sudden, I was seeing myself as a powerful being with the ability to easily change a person’s day, or week, or even their life for the better. How could I not be the kindest person I could possibly be when I held such great power in my hands?

Fred helped me see the power of kindness, and for that, I will forever be grateful. Because of him, I challenge myself to radiate positivity and goodwill wherever I go, because I never know who may need it.

Who knows, maybe someday I’ll have the honor of being someone else's Fred. I guess I’ll never know.

United States of America