Even Emily Dickinson Had Her Moments
When I graduated from high school, I had my university plans all laid out. However, at the very last minute I changed my mind and registered at a university much closer to home. I excelled in English, but the time had passed for testing out of classes, so I was forced to take very basic English classes like 101 and 102. I had an incredibly smart professor for 101, and when the time came to choose my classes for my second semester, I chose to take English 102 with him as well.
Dave, as all of his students called him, was not your typical English professor. He played bass in a local rock band, had a shaved head, and wore black nail polish. He showed up to class in black t-shirts and jeans, and on the first day of classes plopped into a desk in the back of the class, joking that if the "damn professor" didn't show up within 5 minutes he was leaving.
About 4 minutes later he stood up and announced to everyone that it was time to get started. He clunked his worn leather bag on the teachers desk, then quickly slid on top of it himself. This would remain his perch for the next semester -- ON the desk, not behind it. As it turns out, he was the "damn professor" that we had all been waiting on.
Even though I had chosen a desk in the back of the class myself (I'm the type who likes to pretend like I'm not the teacher's pet - even though I totally am) it quickly became apparent to Dave that I was definitely ahead of the other students in my class. We had an unspoken agreement - he wouldn't make me look like a total smarty pants in front of my classmates (he allowed me to keep my cool sorority girl exterior) but if he needed an answer or wanted to prove a point, he would occasionally call me out. He kept me after class one day to ask if I had ever considered a career in writing, which I considered the highest compliment.
In preparation for the final exam at the end of English 102, we were supposed to read 10 different stories. We would be given an essay question about one of the stories for our final - which would account for 60% of our grade. I had 3 other finals that day, and I remember falling asleep around 4 am reading Emily Dickinson. I had finished 9 out of 10 stories, and just couldn't study any more. I was exhausted.
At 8 am l showed up for my English final, and was handed a copy of the essay question as I walked in the door. I sat down, opened my Blue book, and started to read the question. A feeling of dread overcame me as I realized it was about the Emily Dickinson piece that I had barely started. I sat, dumbfounded for a minute, wondering if I could fluff my way though the essay. Finally coming to grips with my situation, I scribbled a quick note in the Blue Book - "Dave - fell asleep reading the Dickinson piece last night. So sorry to disappoint. I guess I'll see you next semester right back here for 102! Erika."
He gave me a funny look as I stood up, only 10 minutes into the final and I handed in my book, but I thanked him and told him to have a nice summer and slipped out quietly. In the hall I burst into tears - I had always juggled everything so well and had NEVER failed anything in my entire life - but not writing this essay ensured that I would fail English 102. So much for it being an "easy" class.
A week later I got online to check my final grades, and to my astonishment, I had been given an "A" on the exam and had passed the class with an "A" as well. Feeling rather humiliated for a second time, I emailed Dave to let him know there had been a mistake - that I hadn't taken the final.
The email I got back was short and to the point. "Erika - if anyone deserved to pass 102 with an A, it was you. Even Emily Dickinson had her moments. Keep writing. Dave."
I was so thankful to him for his kindness. I had worked hard all semester and kept my grade at 100%. I knew my stuff, and repeating the class wouldn't have actually helped me whatsoever. Dave knew that, and gave me a break. He was kind and passed me, with high marks, instead of being grumpy and forcing me to do something just because he could.
I will never forget that moment, that feeling, that email. It made me realize that sometimes rules are made to be broken. It made me realize that just because we CAN do something, doesn't mean we should. It made me realize that even Emily Dickinson had her moments.
With that, I wanted to tell you that this week is RAK week - also known as Random Acts of Kindness Week. This is a week that is set aside to celebrate these random acts of kindness, much like the one I was shown, and hopefully do some of them yourself. While I feel like every day is a day that we should consider random acts of kindness, I think this week brings great awareness to something that makes so many people happy. Consider holding the door open for someone, paying the toll for a few cars behind you, or looking someone in the eye and asking about their day - genuinely meaning it. These are just a few places to start, but there are lots of ways that you can express kindness to those around you.
So this week, I encourage you to go out and be a "Dave" to someone else. Be kind. It will make them feel good, but it might make you feel even better.