As I walked into school one Friday morning, I saw a girl I knew crying and being comforted by her friend. I didn’t want to make her feel embarrassed about being upset, and so I pretended not to notice. As I progressed further into my school, I walked past a group of three other people who were all crying. I didn’t know these people, and so I again did not want to intrude. I had a first block spare in the morning as did my friend, so I texted her asking where she was so we could talk for a few minutes before we both had to go to class. She responded by telling me that she was in the cafeteria, and asking me if I was okay. This confused me. Why wouldn’t I be okay? When I met her in the cafeteria, I asked about the strange text message she had sent. This is when she told me that one of the girls in our grade had passed away the night before, and the entire school had been informed by their first block teachers. The atmosphere of the school was dreary and depressing for the rest of that day, and less noticeably so for the weeks that followed. It seemed like things would never be quite the same.
I had only come to the school in tenth grade, but she had been here since elementary, so many of the people in our school had spoken to, and been friends with her at some point. It was because of this that many people began to blame themselves for her death, and they all felt that if some point they had just reached out to her, then maybe she would not have felt so alone that she resorted to taking her own life. I was one of these people. In the first few months I spent at this school I had taken two classes with her. In our guitar class, we sat next to one another and were partners for all of the duets we were graded on. In our gym class, I would sometimes talk to her after we had changed out of our gym clothes and were waiting for the bell to ring. After those classes had ended, I never had a reason to talk to her for the next one and a half years. It made me wonder that if I had made more of an effort to be friends with her, or if I had even smiled at her in the hallway despite not talking for years, if it would have made a difference. This is why Dr Parker’s quote, “smile to someone you do not know…it may make their day,” is so important. You never know what someone might be going through, and making a small effort into being kind to someone could mean a world of difference to them. Smiling at someone you do not know can show someone that they are not alone and universally disliked, and that the world is not always a cruel, unforgiving place. Could the people at our school have been able to save her by something as small as a smile? We’ll never know, but we also will be all the more likely to smile at another stranger. It is not right to blame ourselves when we never knew what she was going through. The only thing we can do is try to be more giving to strangers, as you never truly know how much of a difference it will make.