If you read one thing today… George Saunders’ Commencement Speech at Syracuse University for the Class of 2013

George Saunders touches on regret and the importance of kindness in an address to graduates a few years ago, but sometimes I think this speech is more appropriate at the beginning of the school year or just about anytime really. There’s a link at the end to read the whole speech, but here’s a little excerpt:

“In seventh grade, this new kid joined our class. In the interest of confidentiality, her Convocation Speech name will be “ELLEN.” ELLEN was small, shy. She wore these blue cat’s-eye glasses that, at the time, only old ladies wore. When nervous, which was pretty much always, she had a habit of taking a strand of hair into her mouth and chewing on it.

So she came to our school and our neighborhood, and was mostly ignored, occasionally teased (“Your hair taste good?” — that sort of thing). I could see this hurt her. I still remember the way she’d look after such an insult: eyes cast down, a little gut-kicked, as if, having just been reminded of her place in things, she was trying, as much as possible, to disappear. After awhile she’d drift away, hair-strand still in her mouth. At home, I imagined, after school, her mother would say, you know: “How was your day, sweetie?” and she’d say, “Oh, fine.” And her mother would say, “Making any friends?” and she’d go, “Sure, lots.”

Sometimes I’d see her hanging around alone in her front yard, as if afraid to leave it.

And then — they moved. That was it. No tragedy, no big final hazing.

One day she was there, next day she wasn’t.

End of story.

Now, why do I regret that? Why, forty-two years later, am I still thinking about it? Relative to most of the other kids, I was actually pretty nice to her. I never said an unkind word to her. In fact, I sometimes even (mildly) defended her.

But still. It bothers me.

So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it:

What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.

Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded . . . sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.

Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?

Those who were kindest to you, I bet…”

Click here to read the whole story on https://6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/31/george-saunderss-advice-to-graduates/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

Mien Writers Association

Zuangx Mienh Yietc Mbong | 一个山为所有 | ຫນຶ່ງໃນພູເຂົາສໍາລັບທຸກຄົນ | Một ngọn núi cho tất cả | หนึ่งภูเขาสำหรับทุกคน

The Anthem

The Official Literary Magazine of Georgetown University

dsaechao

A Blog for the Mien-Yao

my world, my perspectives

words are artificial. are feelings natural?

Whatever

THIS MACHINE MOCKS FASCISTS

write meg!

Another take on writing, reading, loving -- and eating

Blogging for a Good Book

A suggestion a day from the Williamsburg Regional Library

The Better Man Project ™

a journey into the depths

taste of colours

everything has got taste

%d bloggers like this: