Whatever you do in life, do it with kindness

By Liza Stangl, Guest Columnist

Welcome classmates, family and friends. I feel humbled to be standing up here speaking in front of you tonight. I know that some of you have places to go, so don’t worry. I was told to keep my speech within 33 minutes, so I’m guessing that you’ll probably be out of here before you all fall asleep.

Just kidding, (it’s) only three minutes.

I have always loved sweaters, and my grandma knew that I did. Before she passed away two years ago, she gave me two sweaters out of kindness, hoping that I would wear them and appreciate them. I wore them to school often, even when I could have worn the latest styles that everyone else was wearing.

Sometimes I got laughed at for my love of sweaters, but I still proudly wore them because of the meaning they held. Even though my grandma knew that they weren’t worth a lot of money, she gave them to me as a symbol of her love and kindness.

Growing up during the Great Depression, my grandmother never had a lot of money. She never had the chance to receive a college education, or even graduate from high school; however, after over 80 years of life experience, she learned that the best way to find happiness is not through money, power, or prestige, but through kindness.

At graduation time, we hear quotes from presidents, inventors and celebrities. They all tell us how to live successful lives, but some of life’s greatest lessons have been taught by America’s simplest but greatest philosopher, Mr. Rogers. He once said, “There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.”

Kindness is not usually a qualification listed on a résumé, but it is a priceless asset. Yes, it’s important to be hardworking, honest and educated, but none of these qualities will matter if they are not done with kindness.

If you have a great job but had to step on others to get it, then you have lost respect. You will not only lose respect from those around you, but also respect for yourself. At the end of the day, if you cannot face the person looking back at you in the mirror, then you have failed.

Sometimes, circumstances arise that make kindness difficult. Someone once said, “Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you — not because they are nice, but because you are.”

As we all know, not everyone we encounter in this world is kind, but sometimes unkind people make us stronger. It’s easy to be friendly to a polite person, but when you encounter a rude person in school or at work, it’s a real challenge to be respectful to them. No matter what the circumstances are, always be nice because it’s a small world. The person that you encounter today might be the doctor or nurse that saves your life, the technician that fixes your dishwasher, or the woman that will one day be your mother-in-law.

Many times, we expect others to be kind to us but fail to return the favor. It’s easy to accept a compliment, but how often do we recognize those around us for their achievements? Tonight, we are going to be receiving praise and congratulations from family, friends, and teachers for our accomplishments. Don’t forget the kindness that they are showing us during this time in our lives. When they achieve something special in their lives, even if it’s as simple as learning how to swim or losing weight, be sure to give them compliments as well.

Don’t put on an act of kindness the same way one puts on makeup in the morning, because makeup eventually washes away. Kindness shouldn’t just be a show, but should come from the heart. Do not expect to be recognized or rewarded for your kindness, because then you will face disappointment. Your reward will not always come in the form of a paycheck or a slap on the back, but by the feeling of self-satisfaction in your heart.

I know that I still have a lot to learn about kindness, so I wanted to end with a quote from Mother Teresa. “People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”

Congratulations, Class of 2013. I feel privileged and honored to have been part of such an exceptional group of students, and I wish each one of you the best in the future. May God bless you all. Thank you.

Liza Stangl is one of the top 10 honor students at Pierz Healy High School for the Class of 2013. This is the commencement address she delivered during graduation ceremonies, May 31.