To me, empathy is one of the most important characteristics a person can have. Being able to show kindness and love to people who are what the world would call "different" wether that be their health, the way they learn, style, etc; seems to be taboo these days. When our principles came to the school with the idea of "Empathy Paradigm", I can tell that I had a change of heart immediately. I moved to Hollister in 7th grade, after growing up in New Mexico around a lot of bullying and people who loved to hurt me and make me feel awful about myself. I self harmed from 3rd grade through 7th grade. It makes me so sad to know that an 8 year old girl was so full of hate for herself. Her parents just divorced and she moved to a school where she had no friends and everyone picked on her. That girl was me. I was lost and alone. Hollister was my second chance to be happy. I wanted to be known as the nice, godly, happy girl. I had that reputation. Then quickly fell into a spiral of depression and loneliness, yet again. Going through that season of my life from 8th grade all through freshman year, I promised myself I would show tons more love to those who are struggling with such things. To maintain that reputation, but let people know I had and sometimes still do struggle with depression and anxiety. I never would treat someone the way I was treated. Especially my peers, the people I go to school with and practically grown up with.
I chose to pick one person to love on this year. That was Aaron Greblowski. He moved to Hollister this year and I could tell he was struggling to find his "spot" in this school. Which I understand because the student body here tends to be pretty judgmental and harsh. I saw him walking around the cafeteria during lunch with out food, and no one to talk to. I had my English class with him, and for a while he wasn't social and didn't really get involved in class discussions. It hurt me to see so much if myself in another human. I couldn't just let that go and move on. After a couple weeks the student body was being really mean to him and spreading very hurtful things about him. Things like "the new kid is going to be the school shooter" or "dude just wears all black and never talks to anyone. i will never talk to him" and even "that new kid is going to be alone for a long time here" and it broke me.
For about a week I felt the need to do something. I finally did it. I talked to my mom one day after rehearsal, and we went to walmart. I noticed he was very artistic and loved to draw. I ended up buying Aaron a sketch book, a set of pencils, some paint, paint brushes, and colored pencils as well. It wasn't a lot, but I thought it would be a sweet gift to give him.
That night, I wrote a note for him in the first page telling him my story, all I went through, and that he wasn't alone. That I was there for him.
I gave him his simple gift at lunch the next day, and I never saw him smile as big as he did. His eyes lit up and he told me how thankful he was for everything. He walked around the rest of the day with a huge smile on his face, and a little purpose in his walk. It warmed my heart to see joy all over his face.
I checked in on him every week or so and allowed him and I to fill each other in with what was going on in our lives. I slowly saw him gain a really cool friend group, new hobbies, a girlfriend, and a reason to go to school.
It was so good for my soul to see someone gain happiness throughout the year. I really feel as if Aaron was a blessing in disguise because seeing him grow, helped me grow.
Empathy is so important for the world and I will forever grateful Hollister now has principles that are trying to bring it to the school. We all need a little love, a safe place, opportunity, and empathy just gets us closer to all those things.