My good friend Terri joins us today to share how someone showing just a little kindness helped her overcome feelings of shame, fear, and uncertainty.
by Terri Fullerton
She swung the dorm room open and entered our freshman dorm room with a bulging load of books. She introduced herself with all the extrovert energy and enthusiasm that startles introverts like me. Michele introduced herself and leaped into a litany of the cost of college textbooks. She didn’t pause, though it wasn’t because she lacked consideration; she just had lots of energy like Joy in Pixar’s Inside Out. She listed each book and the total amount paid. She asked if I had purchased mine yet.
My head was still watching her and my ears were listening. My mind swirled down a familiar path where shame and fear flourish.
How did I not think about this?
How could I be so stupid?
Who do I turn to?
What if I have to leave?
Maybe I thought it would be like high school. Our textbooks and other required reading were always provided.
The next day I made an appointment with the financial aid officer. My steps felt sluggish. As I sat outside her office my eyes traced the zig-zag pattern in the carpet to keep my tears from spilling down my cheeks.
Heat grew in my cheeks as I stumbled through words to admit what was wrong.
Her genuine and disarming tone melted my shame. “Terri, this is your first time at college, right? We have a budget for things that come up. I am so glad you came in to see me,” she gently explained.
She didn’t open my file, she didn’t call anyone. She pulled out a white form and scribbled a brief note. She told me to get all my textbooks, notebooks, and the required reading I needed for the whole semester textbooks. All I had to do was give the cashier the form she handed to me.
It was more than just her generous actions. She could have done the same thing and rolled her eyes. She could have opened my file and sighed, and made me feel more stupid. She could have cut through me with a disapproving look. She could have lectured me. I would have left her office carrying heavier a heavier burden. Alone.
But grace permeated her tone. Her tender words lifted my head allowing me to see the light in her eyes. The compassionate way she spoke carried a healing balm, and restored my dignity. The feelings of being ashamed and stupid dissipated in her presence.
Kindness can dig up shame that’s trying to take root in a person’s soul.
Kindness can dismantle the lies that are building self-protective walls in a person’s heart.
I can still feel the warmth of her loving-kindness. It’s a sacred gift tucked in my heart as a reminder of how I want to live.
Through her reflective storytelling, Terri inspires others by weaving stories that awaken wonder, spark hope, and freshen faith. In addition to writing, she enjoys hiking, backpacking, traveling, and photography. You can read more of her writing at www.terrifullerton.com She welcomes readers and would love to be email friends. She is also a contributing writer at theglorioustable.com , www.lifelettercafe and the HuffingtonPost Blog.
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