Every so often, you make a request that you don’t expect to be fulfilled. You ask someone to do you a favor and you fully anticipate that they’re going to say no. And when they do say no, that sucks, but you kinda get over it because you were prepared. But when they say yes, well… When they say yes you get up and dance a jig. Especially when they say yes in about five minutes.
Case in point: I’m applying for something. It needs letters of rec. The normal thing to do in this situation is to ask for a letter between 3 and 4 weeks before the due date. More than that is a little excessive; less than that is cutting it close. If you’re asking 2 weeks out, you apologize for the urgency of the situation. If you’re asking 1 week out, you look like a fool.
But what do you do if you only just found out about something because the application period only opened this weekend and the due date is Friday. Yes, Friday. Five days from now. Friday. You scream in frustration and you contact people who already have letters written for you; people who merely have to tweak the letters they’ve already written on your behalf. You pray that they don’t have a busy schedule this week.
But what do you do if the best person to write a letter for you was your internship coordinator for this summer, who has never needed to write you a letter of recommendation before? Who doesn’t already have a template in their “Letters of Rec” folder saved under your last name? You send them a very flattering, very nicely worded email in which you basically beg. And you pray that they don’t have a busy schedule this week.
Then you think about who else would write a good letter. Until your inbox chimes. Because four minutes after you sent your kind and flattering begging email, they’ve written back.
“Of course!” you read.
“Thank God!” you think.
And then, since it is midnight, you go to sleep. Or at least consider it.
This morning, I was listening to NPR (surprising, right?!), and a Forum panel about kindness was airing. It was a result, at least partially, of the new viral video of George Saunders’ Commencement Speech at Syracuse University, where he highlights his biggest regret in life: not being kind to the new girl in seventh grade.
And then a friend sent me a video about the Palo Alto High School Principal speaking out against the seniors that streaked across campus yesterday (the first day of school). I figured it would be good for a laugh, and it was.
But more than that, it made me think again about that Forum panel. Because I do my best to define my life by kindness and happiness, not anger or disappointment. Luckily, I haven’t had very many huge disappointments, so its not that difficult. But at the same time, there are also only a handful of situations, people, events, whatever that I remember super distinctly. But Kristen Sze is one of them.