Be Someone Nicer: The Surprising Power of Kindness


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In her book “The Second Neurotic’s Notebook” (what a great title!) American journalist Mignon McLaughlin wrote: “Don’t be yourself, be someone a little nicer.” I love that. And also the Dalai Lama’s advice, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”


I’m not sure if I’ve ever told this story on Beyond Blue. I did in my book, “Beyond Blue”…. It was one act of kindness from a high school religion teacher that had the power to shift my momentum from one of self-destruction when I was 18 to one of healing and recovery. Knowing the symbolism and significance of roses for me, she sent me three red roses at an impressionable point in my life, when I could have easily stayed asleep and continued coasting through life not really caring to confront the gunk inside. Her kindness woke me up and nudged me toward a road less traveled, a harder but ultimately more fertile path.

So I was especially moved by an email that I received from a woman who, having read the story about my teacher in my book “Beyond Blue,” went out of her way to express the same kind of kindness to one of her students. I include her letter below, because she describes it much better than I:

I am a sixth grade teacher, age 49. A couple of months ago your book caught my eye in our local library. A recent hysterectomy had caused me to re-visit some issues that bothered me during my college years: bio-chemical mood swings. However, I was not suffering too much.

Until I faced a crises. One day I went to work and got some very bad news- news that would affect my job, a friendship, a ministry, and all the hopes and dreams that went with those. I felt myself become very hot as the announcement was made. Then I went to the bathroom, crashed to the floor, and threw up. Needless to say, I got a substitute that day and went home.

At that point I realized how fragile I actually was. And while I returned to work, I went with tears in my eyes and a heavy heart!

A few days later I got an e-mail from a counselor. “You are getting a new student. She and three siblings have been placed in a shelter. She is very sensitive and upset.”

On her first full day she came in early (she has me first period) with tears in her eyes. I had tears in my eyes from my crises. I said, “I know you have been through a bad thing. I have been through something bad, too. I want you to know that God put you with me for a reason.”

After that we had some school holidays, and I kept reading “Beyond Blue.” I was very moved by what you said that the gift of flowers made a HUGE difference in your life and the life of your mother.

Because of your writing, God put it in my heart to give this child flowers. I bought a vase and flowers and took it to the shelter- which is run by nuns. They were very protective, “grilled me” a little, didn’t let me see the child, and informed me that the flowers could not be in the girl’s room because the vase was glass. But they accepted them and let me write her a note.

After the holidays the child told me “thank you”, and I continued to try to reach her gently every day- hello, little pat on the shoulder, etc.

Then came Valentine’s Day. I don’t know how the child got to go shopping, or where she got the money, but she gave me a carnation and a nice box of chocolates. She also gave me a card with the following note:

Dear Mrs. T,

Thank you for the flowers that you sent me they were really beautiful. Thank you for caring for me. I never really had a teacher caring for me my others teachers in my old school didn’t even cared. I hope you like the stuff I got for you. I care about you a lot. You are always there for me when I need you. When I’m having a bad or sad day and when I see you my problems just go away and I’m happy again. You are my best friend in the whole entire world. You are really nice and are the best teacher. Hope you have a happy Valentine’s day. See you later. bye.

P.S. Thanks for being there when I need you. LOVE YOU!!

You really never know how far one act of kindness might go. This story is proof of that.

Originally published on Beyond Blue at

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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2 Responses
  1. Nancy

    Love this story and so happy to see your new blog, Therese! Best wishes from a loyal and appreciative reader!