The Smallest Actions Can Make A Difference

October 20, 2020

By Ava Lim

Ava Lim is 15 years old and lives in Texas where she currently prioritizes school, friends + family, and her position as Marketing Director and Volunteer Manager of Teen Talk Hotline. She is always striving to change herself and the world around her for the better through her words, actions, and education.

Kindness comes in many different forms and exists all around us the way water does on earth—it fills oceans, makes up glaciers, and clusters in the sky to give us the beautiful expanse of our atmosphere. We live and breathe kindness the way that our bodies depend on water to live. And also just like water, kindness is always cycling through our world, being recycled and passed on to different life forms and allowing us to thrive with one another.

I’ve had the fortune of witnessing this experience firsthand many times, though there are some occasions that stick out to me in particular. Sometimes an action is so small but so life-changing when you look back on it that you can’t help but marvel at what a butterfly effect kindness can produce.

I began high school in an unfamiliar setting—a completely new building, far from my middle and elementary schools, which were on the other side of town. I was thrilled to have gotten into my high school since acceptance was selective and the stakes were high, being a vanguard program. As if I didn’t already feel nervous enough being thrown into a competitive environment where I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to raise, much less meet, the bar, I was also complete strangers with every other student. One of my classmates from elementary ended up getting in too, but we never talked much, and our relationship was good as void because we hadn’t spoken to each other in years.

It was jarring to walk into school and not recognize every face there—I knew every person by face, if not by first and last name, at my middle school. Here, I was easily swallowed up by the crowd of unfamiliarity and the dizzying hallways, even though the school was relatively small. To add to that, everyone seemed to have made friends at the summer camp for rising freshmen, which I didn’t attend because I didn’t finalize my choice to go here until just weeks before the first day.

I nearly walked straight into people with every other step I took, too focused on making sure I didn’t get lost (again) to choose my footing correctly. As far as I was concerned, this day would be considered an accomplishment if I could be on time to just one of my classes.

When lunch rolled around, I found myself even more dumbfounded. Sure, the cafeteria was easily the most noticeable spot—it was hard not to wind up there, no matter how lost you were. But I was faced with the cliche moment of not knowing where to sit—or rather, who to sit with. The tables in the cafeteria were sparsely occupied, and I found that most of the students preferred to eat lunch in the courtyard or in the various alcoves of the hallways, since our school had a lax seating policy during the lunch period.

So I wandered out into the courtyard, lunchbox clutched in one hand and backpack strap hung onto by the other, trying not to look like I didn’t have any friends. There really isn’t a better way to put it—I was lonely.

It wasn’t that I was extremely introverted or shy—I had easily struck up a conversation with the people sitting next to me in most of my morning classes—but I couldn’t seem to find any of those familiar faces right now. For some reason, trying to acquaint myself with someone to sit with during lunch was ten times as daunting as asking to borrow a pencil.

It took me a bit of meandering and almost-said-but-then-swallowed-down “hello’s,” but I eventually worked up the nerve to ask if I could sit with a group of freshmen. At first, they didn’t hear me, given all of the noise in the courtyard, but one girl took notice of my meek introduction after I gave a slightly awkward clearing of my throat.

I quickly learned (and admittedly, just as quickly forgot) all of their names—there were about fifteen of them, and they seemed to all have come from the same middle school. Easing into a conversation about which classes we had been to and how we were liking the school so far seemed to come much easier than I had thought it would be, and the gaping ravine between me and the rest of my classmates seemed to close in an instant.

We all compared schedules and found that a few girls had classes in the same hallway as me, so we all walked to fifth period together. Their names were Alina and Naomi, and they were the reason I didn’t fall apart that first week of school.

Soon we fell into a pattern of meeting each other first thing in the morning at the same spot, with the addition of our new friends—Ansen, William, and Isaiah. Despite not having many classes together, our group grew inseparable during lunch and the few minutes before the first bell of the day rang.

Oftentimes I forget that our entire friendship all began with that simple offer from Naomi and Alina to walk me to my next class. They grew to be such a regular piece of my everyday life that I can’t believe I was ever nervous about meeting new people at school. I don’t take them or their act of kindness for granted, though.

You never know how the smallest seeds can bloom into the biggest, brightest flowers. That’s why I’m asking you to commit acts of kindness whenever you can, no matter how small or trivial they may seem. Take the time to recognize what is all around you: kindness.

Take it to heart, appreciate it, and use it for good.