When I was about 8 years old, my nose used to bleed a lot. Nearly every day, for months. I often used to hide it because I was so embarrassed that other kids would assume I was picking my nose too much. So I’d hide out in the toilet or just keep sniffing until it stopped. I know. Gross.
Mum took me to see doctors about it and we even tried acupuncture. All we could put it down to, was that I had a very sensitive blood vessel in my nose that was prone to rupturing easily. Just rubbing my nose would set it off. I do remember being accidentally smacked in the nose with a soccer ball at close range once or twice. Maybe that triggered it? I don’t know. But it did eventually stop of its own accord and I haven’t had a bleeding nose for years. Touch wood.
It seems such a trivial thing in the scheme of things when I look back now, but at the time it was a pretty miserable ordeal for 8-year-old me. But I distinctly remember someone who showed me kindness when I was going through it. And it was an act of kindness that has stayed with me over the years.
That someone was my year 4 school teacher, Mr M.
In those days, it was common practice to treat a bleeding nose by pinching your nostrils with a tissue and tilting your head back. We’ve come a long way since then and obviously this is not what we do anymore. But Mr M sat with me in his arms on the step outside the classroom and applied the now out-of-date technique, as he nursed me like a baby.
He didn’t have to do that.
He could have sat me in a corner and given me instructions to do it myself, not that I needed them. I was a seasoned nose bleeder, I knew my way around my nose! But not only did he help me, he nursed me. I’m not sure it would be deemed appropriate these days. There was nothing sinister or inappropriate about it. He was showing me kindness and compassion. He made me feel less alone.
And it made a lasting impression on me.
I was reminded of this memory at Heather’s school assembly last week. Merit awards were being given out and as several children’s names were being called, they stood and took their place beside the Principal at the front of the room. As they reached the end of the list, a young girl’s name was called and I heard someone, a child seated not too far from where I sat, catch her breath. It was the girl whose name had just been called.
But she didn’t move.
There was an awkward silence as all eyes turned towards her and every person in the room waited for her to stand and make her way to the front to collect her award. But she didn’t.
She remained seated.
It seemed obvious to me that she was frozen with fear. Her teacher discreetly made her way through the row of students to where the girl sat and quietly spoke with her. Another teacher approached from the other side of the room and reached out to her. Slowly and a little shaky, she rose to her feet and with the teachers either side of her, one holding her hand, the other gently resting a hand on her back to guide her, she made her way to the front of the room to where the Principal stood. On receiving her award she turned to face the room and much to my surprise, she looked up and smiled a shy little smile.
Oh but I cried.
I know! What is wrong with me? It happens a lot when I see people doing nice things for people who are feeling vulnerable.
Well…okay I didn’t cry as in loud sobbing (not this time, hehe) but there were tears. I guess I was empathising with the young girl, knowing what a relief it is to have someone help you when it seems your world is caving in. And I was touched by the kindness shown by those two teachers. They helped the young girl to overcome her fear.
It’s small acts of kindness like this that can have a big impact on a child’s sense of well-being, not just in that moment, but they will likely carry the memory with them for the rest of their lives. Like my memory of Mr M.
But even more important than that, is that adults role modelling kindness nurtures empathy in kids. Empathy is an ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Some people are better at it than others. Where there is empathy, there is compassion.
And Lord knows the world could use a little more compassion right now.
Do you have memories of kindness like these?
Do you remember how it made you feel?
I’d love to hear your story.