People on Reddit were asked: “What have you unknowingly done that meant the world to someone else?” These are some of the most beautiful answers.
1. Always remember to thank those who help you along
I recently just graduated from high school, and I felt like I should send some of my teachers a thank you note. For most of my teachers, I would just send a really generic, cliche email thanking him/her for teaching me etc. But there was one teacher in particular who really touched my heart and made me appreciate his teaching (We’ll call him Mr. X).
For a little background information, Mr. X is a pretty tall, buff, tatoo-covered guy. He’s also gay, and a lot of students would usually try not to associate with him, or even talk with him because of his sexuality. I’m straight, but I feel pretty indifferent about the fact that he’s gay. He was my biology teacher when I was a junior, and he was such a nice person to me. But the thing that really makes me admire him is the fact that he is diagnosed with being HIV positive, and he’s still teaching (I think he’s in his mid 40’s, which is even more impressive).
I spent a few hours typing up a very heart-felt email, and I sent it to him the day before I graduated.
The next day, as I was preparing to graduate, he came up to me and gave me an enormous hug. He was also in tears, sobbing and telling me that was the first time anybody has sent him such a thoughtful email in all his years of teaching. It turns out he was going through a serious time of depression, and he was not sure whether or not he wanted to continue to teach since he did not feel that many students really appreciated his time and effort. But my email gave him more hope, and refuelled his passion and motivation to continue to teach. He even told me that printed out a copy of my email and keeps it in his desk, so “whenever he is doubting himself or feels like there’s no point in living, he’ll read my email and know that his hard work is not going to waste.”
Needless to say, we have stayed in contact ever since. He has done so much in my life, and a nice thank you note was all he needed to give him a motivation boost.
2. Well when you put it that way…
I recently saw my uncle who I hadn’t seen since I was 4 years old (I’m 23 now.) He pulled me aside and told me a story about the last time he visited, when he was outside smoking. He said, “I remember a little 4 year old girl coming up to me and saying, ‘Why are you smoking? Don’t you know it’s bad for you?!’ …And that was the last cigarette I ever smoked.” Who knew a goofy little kid’s comment could have an impact like that?
3. Sometimes all it takes is one little word
I’ve lived in the same town almost my whole life (left for a little while, but came back). I have grown up with the same group of people for as long as I can remember. When I was in elementary school, I used to hang out with almost everyone, and was a pretty popular kid. Every day during lunch, I would play basketball out in the “covered areas”. One day the ball rolled out towards the field, and I decided to go grab it. This girl that I knew was pretty shy was playing with rocks by herself when the ball rolled near her. I, not thinking anything of it, called out “Hey beautiful, would you pass me that ball?”. Her face went from a depressed frown, to a giant smile. Without saying a word she passed me back the ball, and I went on my way.
Fast foward years. We’re in highschool now. I’m a freshman going to get my schedule for my day. This stunning girl walks up to me with a huge smile. “Hi cutie, how was your summer?” We start talking, and I find out that that day had changed her life. She told me no one had ever said much of anything to her, esspecially not calling her beautiful. From that day on she was able to come out of her shell, because when she looked in the mirror, she knew someone saw something in her.
We ended up dating, and she was a wonderful person, inside and out.
4. What a difference can be made
When I was young, I went to an overnight camp that I loved. We spent all our time with nearly exclusively just our little group (five girls or so) so I eventually started the only coed meal table because the girls were annoying me.
An older girl sat with us one day at lunch, looking nervous and whatnot. She seemed sweet so a few of the kids tried talking to her, only for her to run crying from the table. I went after her, because that was the kind of nosy brat I was, and I got her to tell me what was wrong. She had severe social anxiety issues caused by her parents and bullies at school. I told her that she didn’t have to be afraid of anything or anyone because she’s a good person and that’s all that matters.
By next year, I’d completely forgotten about the girl. I arrived at camp and was hanging around, waiting to get my room key, when a pretty girl bounded up to me and gave me a huge hug. She was smiling and confident and happy and she was so excited to see me. She started thanking me and I realized it was the scared little girl I’d talked to the year before. She said I’d be the final push for her to find her confidence.
5. Friendship blossoms in the most unlikely places sometimes
I went to a pretty conservative college, and felt very out of place there. As a result, I ended up befriending one of the gardeners that worked there. We’d smoke spliffs and he’d make me tea in their break room so I didn’t have to pay for it. He loved my pet ferrets, and I even brought them over to his place one when I visited. He was a rough around the edges kind of guy… had lots of dodgy prison tattoos from his time inside, came from a very deprived area of the city, had a drug addicted ex who he would throw drugs to inside and orange over the wall of the prison she was in. He was really turning his life around, though. He had an apartment he got from the council for almost nothing, and was really house proud. He had me over for dinner once and his apartment was beautiful and nicely decorated. We were pretty different people, and his world was so out of my personal sphere of experience, but he was a lovely person and we always had great craic together chatting and smoking.
After I left college we lost touch. I tried calling and texting him a few times, and even gave my number to one of the other gardeners to pass on to him, but never heard back. A few weeks ago, well over a year since we had last seen each other, the secretary of my college called to tell me that he was dead. The reason I hadn’t heard from him was because his abusive junkie ex got out of prison and they got back together. She would take his phone and wallet so he couldn’t do anything without her permission, and when he got ill and she didn’t think he should go to the doctor, he didn’t go… the police and his landlord eventually broke into his place, with his brother, and convinced him to go into hospital, but he died.
Apparently at his wake, where the other gardeners from the college were in attendance, his family approached them to ask about a girl he had been friends with that he spoke really highly of. They said they didn’t know her name, but that she was a student in the college and kept ferrets. The college figured out who they meant and called me. I went to his cremation the next day, and his family were delighted to see me and welcomed me as one of their own. I realised when I arrived that there were only about 20 people present. I hadn’t realised that his life was so lonely, or that his ex was abusive until I spoke to his brother and asked about her (since I only ever heard about her from him). I also hadn’t realised he thought so highly of me, either, or that he’d ever have cause to talk about me with anybody else. It makes me so sad to think about.
6. When you’ve had a hard day at work, this goes a long way
While I was working as a clerk at a grocery store, I took the job very seriously. I always took an interest in everyone that came in my line and always tried to converse with them, when they desired it. (I hardly conversed with my co-workers since this was strongly curbed by management, which is indeed good for the customer). One day I finished with a customer and as she leaves she looks me in the eye and says “Every time I come in here you are so helpful and kind, and that means a lot to me.” Onions… onions everywhere…
7. Never be afraid to ask for help
I just finished talking to one of my friends online, and something wasn’t right. She didn’t seem her usual weird self. The feeling didn’t go away through the night, and it got progressively worse. It was about 11:30pm and I decided to call her, just to assure myself that everything was okay. The answer I got was her incredibly angry that I woke her up. I told her I was concerned for some reason, and she hung up on me. I felt better that she was okay, and finally slept.
Fast forward 5 years, and I run into her at the shopping mall. We talked for a bit and I ended up bringing up that moment, joking that I’ve always been overly worried about my friends. She broke down in tears in the middle of the store and told me that she was going to kill herself that night. She was moments away from hanging herself when I called asking if she was okay. After that call, she couldn’t bring herself to kill herself. She said that she’s always owed her life right now to me, and that she wouldn’t be alive right now if I didn’t make that simple phone call. It made me realise how simple things can make a huge impact on someone’s life.
8. Grab the kleenex before you read this one
I volunteered at a senior citizens community during my freshman and sophomore years of high school. My favorite thing to have all the elderly people come to the lounge and I’d tell them about my life whether it be school, relationship problems (they give the best relationship advice), etc. And they would tell awesome stories from their past, reliving different time periods in their lives with each other. I would just sit there and listen and have a good time. Eventually my dad got a new job in a different city, so I told them that I would be leaving soon. On the last day, they all wrote me a card, and bought me a cake. Of course I teared up and so did they as well. We all said our goodbyes and they all left, but as a volunteer, I had to stay behind and clean up. One lady stayed behind, came up to me and kissed me on the cheek. She said that she was lonely after her husband passed and that her children died before any of them could get married so she never got to have grandkids. Every time she saw me, she would think, “my grandchild would’ve been just like him.” I cried even more, hugged her, thanked her for all the experiences.
Half a year later, I got an email from my volunteer coordinator. This same elderly woman was sick and dying and wished to see me. I drove the 3 hours to see her and man, we had such a fun time just chit-chatting. The coordinator emailed me later saying how wonderful it was for me to visit her and she had the biggest smile on her face after I had left until she passed. It was touching.
Those two years volunteering there have changed my life. I’ve just had a better look on life, learned to embrace the elderly (they’ve always got the best advice), and somehow changed my view on death. I’ve just recently been able to accept that we all die, and not to be afraid of it. If it happens, it happens, but live life to the fullest so that one day, I can retell all of my life stories to some volunteer that hangs out with me when I’m old.
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9. You never know who’s watching you
I was in marching band in most of high school, and when I was a sophomore a freshman named Kyle joined my section. I don’t really remember us ever having any kind of meaningful interaction, but he was new to the instrument so I helped him when I could. He turned out to be the half-brother of the guy I had a crush on, but they had different last names and didn’t look alike so I didn’t know this at the time. At the end of that school year we started dating, and when he told me about his family I said, “Kyle’s your brother? He’s in my section in band.” The guy replied, “I know. He told me you’re the only one who’s nice to him.” I had no idea.
10. It never hurts to go the extra mile for someone in need
We originally had some issues with one of my employees- he was great when other people were in the store, but would basically stand around doing nothing if he was the only one in the store. Our regional manager told him that he needed to get focused or get out. I was firm in my decision that we should not fire him, although the RM wanted him gone. Our management team would not budge, knowing that if he would just get focused he’d be a great employee. Myself and the other manager talked with him, told him that he needed to keep up his numbers when he wasn’t being watched, and he’d be golden in this job. He quit his second job (which he hated and was sucking the life out of him) and we gave him more hours. He immediately improved and was out-selling me and the other manager in just a few weeks time.
He really appreciated having that second chance, more than we realized. He was only with our team for six-ish months before he went off to basic training, but when he left, he wrote in his notice that we were the best managers that he’d ever had and that this was the best job he’d ever had.
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11. Treat people with respect, no matter who they are
Working as a “Sandwich Artist” one night when a family walks in, I give them all a big smile and start my routine. The older brother (late teens, early 20’s) is special needs (don’t know the PC term, sorry) and wants to order his own sub. I don’t think anything of it, I start talking with him as I would anyone. Took me a bit longer to get through the order, but hey, it’s the end of the night, and the kid is smiling, I’ve done good. I ring the family out, and they go on their way.
The next night, the younger brother (probably my age at the time) came back into the restaurant. I recognized him and welcomed him back. As I’m getting ready to make his meal, he stops me with a hint of tears in his eyes and says “I’m not here to order; I wanted to come back and thank you for the way you treated my brother. He likes talking to people, but mostly they just ignore him. You really made his night and I can’t thank you enough for what you did.”
My managers and everyone else in line heard him say that; by the time he shook my hand and walked out, I’m pretty sure we all had tears in our eyes. I don’t remember the last time I received a compliment like that, but I’ll never forget it.
12. You never really know the impact you have on someone else’s life
While in my senior year of high school, several families adopted so-called Vietnamese boat children. They were all in their late teens (>14 YO). One had apparently already graduated in Vietnam but his papers were stolen by pirates as he made he voyage to freedom. He had to retake his senior year of HS to get readmitted to college…one of the smartest guys I ever met.
Two other boys arrived and had 4th and 8th grade educations in Vietnam. For both boys, I was asked to use my study hall period to help the boys with English language. So, I started with picture books and we spent a year learning English (and for me, very little Vietnamese). As we learned, I would take the boys out to stores, parks, churches, etc just so they could associate nouns and verbs to real activities. It seemed to work well…
I learned later that the boy with a 4th grade education struggled a bit because his age and education created a disconnect that was tough to deal with on a daily basis. He did adjust in time.
Two years after my graduation, I was back in town to see one of my good friends graduate. After the graduation ceremony as pictures were being taken and tears were being shed, I heard a voice saying “He’s here; mom and dad, he’s here!” I was yanked around for a photo with the other “boat kid” who had managed to graduate that year and was headed off to college. He spent quite some time regaling his parents and my friend (and her parents) with the stories of our year and how “I had taught him English.”
Until then, I really didn’t realize what an impact that I’d had on him. Yes, it felt good.
13. It’s simple: treat others how you’d like to be treated
Walked into a [store] and bought some typical stuff for home. When I got to the register, the girl at the register looked so tired and sad. I just looked at her and before she could ask me first, I said a simple “Hi there. How is your day going?”
She almost started crying. She then said “You’re the first person who has even spoken to me today. Thank you so much for being so kind. You’ve made my work day.”
Always treat people in the service industry well. They get too much [crap] from everyone and don’t deserve it. They’re people too.
14. Really, really listen to what people are trying to tell you
A guy would come to the smoking area with his fingernails painted. We would give him hell for it, but he just played it off like his girlfriend did it to him. We were talking one day about it, and I told him that if he had a dress in his closet, we would still love him. I told him to be who he was, and to [screw] everyone else. You only have one life to live, so live it how you want without worrying about what people think, because, in all reality, they are just passing through YOUR life.
The last day of class he came decked out in full drag. We gave him hell, but no one said anything mean or spiteful. He pulled me aside and thanked me, telling me that because of what I said, he felt like he could be himself without worry.
She is engaged to a wonderful woman, has a new baby, and is about 1/2 way through her gender reassignment surgery now.
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15. Everyone has a right to be happy
In high school, there was a girl named Amanda–she often introduced herself by rhyming her last name with weird…socially awkward things (let your imaginations play). Amanda was obviously a kid who wanted to be liked and she went well over the top to get that point across. She was very extroverted and people were turned off by her aggressive crusade for bffs.
Everyday at lunch, she would play basketball by herself. One day the ball wandered over my general direction so I shot it and from there, Amanda and my lunch time one on one games began. I never thought much of it and we really only played a couple of times a week, but whatevs. So when graduation day rolled around years later, Amanda gave me a card (it was more like a small book) detailing how those basketball games helped her overcome her depression, feel welcomed by peers, and have a sense of self-worth.
I think I still have the card somewhere. It was pretty cool. Ever since then I have always gone out of my way to try to make people feel appreciated. Everyone has a right to be happy and it doesn’t take much to go out of your way and help them get there.
16. People not only remember what you said, but how you made them feel
I’m really good at my job in an incredibly high-paced, aggressive, somewhat terrifying kitchen. A few years back a guy who had no faith in his abilities (which were quite good for a green cook) was failing left and right because other cooks were bullying up on him. That’s par for the course when people are blowing it. Apparently my habit of him falling slightly behind on my side and me just saying “I’ve got you, baby, you’re fine, I’ve got you, just breathe” a few times gave him the confidence to keep up with the job and the business. He’s a pretty well-paid sous chef elsewhere now and a few months ago he said that he had a pantry guy perpetually in the weeds (uh… really, behind, I guess, hard to describe to non-cooks) and he found himself saying, “I’ve got you, baby, I’ve got you, just breathe.”
He thanked me for showing him how to effectively lead and take care of his employees without holding their hands or doing their jobs for them.
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17. You never know, you might be the only happiness in that person’s day
This was when I was in my sophomore year of college while I worked at a campus dinning facility. The cafeteria was mostly staffed with minimum-wage/slave-labor students and you would be lucky to get over 10 hours a week. But there were some students who had been there for a few years and were ‘promoted’ (i use that term lightly) to sous chefs or managers. The amount of smug given off by these people, who had only worked there for only a year or so more than the rest of the employees, was so thick that it made you sick to your stomach. When in reality all they were doing was defrosting burgers or dishing out french fries. The rest of us had to clean dishes or sweep or some other less than glamorous task for any given night of work. I remember hearing one sous chef say, “I get a break in a half an hour when one of the workers takes over for me.”
Needless to say, I didn’t really care for anyone I worked with and I only talked with people when they would talk to me. The people who were on my pay grade were okay for the most part, but it was obvious that the student managers had favorites. I did my thankless job, got my measly paycheck, and moved on to another job as quickly as I could. I never spoke ill of anyone and when I would talk with people I would try to carry on a conversation and seem interested in what they were saying. I did the same for the guy in question when I worked with him. Over the course of an entire semester he and I talked MAYBE 3 times? 4 times at most.
This guy was in his mid-30’s with a good deal of acne and a higher pitched voice and from the few encounters I had with him I learned that: he was a yellow belt martial artist in pursuit of his black belt, a band major (or something like that), and lived with his mother. Not a bad guy by any means. He seemed to take pride in his work and loved to tell corny jokes. He had worked there for a few years (I am not sure how long he was in college) but they never promoted him so he and I were receiving the same pay and doing the same type of jobs.
At the end of the semester they had to let go most of the student workers because they were closing the dinning hall for the summer. He and I worked the final day, which is when he shook my hand and told me how grateful he was. I was very confused at why he would say something like this to me when we had interacted so little. And as we walked out of the building I overheard one of the managers with a bit of a gnarled lip and flared nose say to the other manager, “Shawn and Dave just shook hands,” like he had just spread some sort of disease to me.
I would later come to learn how the [other] workers treated him. This guy would hit on all the female workers and apparently none of them would give him a chance. Granted, they were 18-20 and he was a lot older so I understand how this could be taken as creepy. He was always really eager, saying stuff like “We get to serve food to hungry students!” “I can’t wait!” This, his appearance and situation in life were fodder people used to ridicule him. I am not sure how much of it was behind his back or to his face. But no one else would really talk to him or eat with him. If I had known all this while I still worked there I would have made more of an attempt to reach out to him.
I’m not really sure where he is now or what is doing, but after a few years I went back and saw the same people as still working there.
18. Nothing beats an ol’ fashioned random act of kindness
I work at a pharmacy that also has a lunch counter. The waitresses and cooks often play the lottery during their work and on their breaks, etc. One time I was unusually working early during the day and a cook that I had never met came over and bought a scratch off. She handed me 2 dollars and asked me to pick her a random ticket (from a selection of about 20). The ticket that I chose for her won $5000. Her husband had died from cancer a few weeks prior and she was struggling to raise her 6 year old daughter by herself. The money from that ticket helped her keep her car so that she could continue working.
19. This is one of the best compliments I’ve ever heard
In my senior year of high school, I was in a US government class that everyone had to take. The class was kinda boring and most of the other students weren’t exactly the shiniest peanuts in the turd, so to speak. Anyway, the teacher tried pretty hard to at least make it interesting or entertaining, but nothing really worked. I felt kinda bad, so I always at least pretended to be paying attention: nodding when I made eye contact with him, asking questions randomly, etc. Nothing extraordinary but enough to keep discussions moving.
When the semester was almost over, we were doing some busy work in a computer lab when my teacher asked if he could see me out in the hall. Naturally I began to wonder what I had done wrong, but he assured me it was nothing to be worried about. When we stepped out, he told me that his toddler son was growing up, and asked if my parents did anything special when raising me. I was a little uncertain of what he meant so I asked him to clarify. He said, “Well you’re a pretty smart kid, you seem to get along well with most people, and I just wanted to know if there was anything special your parents did when you were a kid I can do as a father, so maybe my little guy will end up like you.”
I kinda stood there in shock for a minute and muttered something or other in a feeble attempt to answer him. I couldn’t get over the fact that he was asking me what he could do as a dad so his kid would be like me. I didn’t even feel like I did anything that special in his class, but I guess common courtesy and decency goes a long way sometimes. That was and still probably is the best compliment I have ever received.
20. That moment when you need a hug and someone is right there ready for you
When I was in high school, one day, just on a lark, I walked through the hallways handing out stickers. They were those silly little 99 cent sticker packets you see at Walmart. I bought about fifteen of them and just perused the halls in between classes handing them out.
I walked past a girl I’d never seen before and peeled off a sticker that said “You’re Beautiful!” and featured a chipper little flower on it with a smiley face. I walked over to her and stuck it on her shirt and “Have a great day!”
I took a step to walk away and she grabbed me by the back of my shirt and just started sobbing. I turned around to hug her and she just fell all to pieces in my arms. We stood there, in the hallway, embracing each other for a minute or so. She took a step back, dried her tears with the back of her sleeve, touched the sticker and croaked a feeble “Thank you.”
I saw her a few more times after that but we never spoke. It was an incredibly powerful moment between two strangers… I guess in that moment we lived an entire friendship.
21. I hope you’re doing well too
I worked in a local homemade ice cream store for about 4 years. We are were very busy and had many regular customers that came in very often. One I remember the most, he would come in every Monday and Wednesday. I will refer to him as “Double Vanilla, Marsh Mellow Topping Guy”. He would come in twice a week ever since I started working there. I opened and left before the late afternoon when it got [busy], so my usual customers would come in fairly early. It was great because I had time to chit chat and see how they were doing.
Double Vanilla Marsh Mellow Topping Guy suddenly stopped coming in for about 6 months, until he finally stopped in once and we talked for awhile on how things were. I gave him his ice cream and he whipped out this yellow envelope. He told me not to open it until he left. Once he was gone I opened it up and there was a note and a golden horseshoe with golden nails. It explained how he got sick many years ago and did not like where his life was going. He got better and began making these horseshoes, numbering them, and giving them to people he met as a memory and to show the appreciation of how they have affected him. It was really amazing and I really cherish the golden horseshoe. It has made 3 moves with me always being place above my front door and being sure to never let it fall down.
Double Vanilla, Marsh Mellow Topping Guy wherever you are I hope you’re doing well.
22. Kids are always the best at spreadin’ the love
I am a school bus driver, and have been for over 5 years. Every year, I usually end up with a great rapport with my kids–this year, my elementary school group (9 and 10 year olds) were my favorites, always telling me stuff about their day, making jokes, toeing the line a little more than they ever would with other adults. I always tried to talk to them like adults when I could, and never had to write referrals for any of my kids this year. Today was the last day of school, and I had two of the kids’ parents tell me that their children talk about me all the time, and that my friendship means a lot to them.
Kids I drove when I started 5 years ago still wave at me and call me by my name, and that feels awesome–that I made a positive impact on a kid’s life. I don’t get paid a whole helluva lot to do what I do, which is basically to pilot a huge, hot, 20-ton vehicle with the lives of upwards of 40 children’s lives in my hands on a daily basis, but it’s compliments and recognition like that that make it the best job I’ve ever had. Thank your bus drivers, guys. We don’t do it for the money, we do it for the kids.
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23. The little things…
When I was 4, I was very sick. I was hospitalized and out of preschool for a month. It was bad but, in the end, everything was fine. Shortly after, my family moved so I never returned to that preschool.
12 YEARS LATER and I’m visiting some friends at their high school. A girl comes running up to me and goes “Oh my god!” To my knowledge, I had never seen her before so I simply responded “Yeah, I’m sorry do I know you?”
She looks at me and says “We went to preschool together. I remember when you were in the hospital, the entire class made Get Well Soon cards. I didn’t fully understand so my parents sat me down and explained to me then what death was. I was so scared for you that I cried for days. I’m so glad you’re ok!” Then she hugged me. Apparently, because I inadvertently introduced her to the concept of death and survival, it allowed her to deal with other tragedies she came across early in life.
24. The power of forgiveness
In middle school there was a kid who was found out to have a mis-shaped penis. He got an erection in the shower after gym class and someone noticed him trying to hide it in the corner. So this person was telling us all afterwards. After hearing his description I said, “Oh, so it looks like a boot?” Innocent enough question.
I swear to God by high school people didn’t even know his real first name. Everyone called him Boot. What a horrible nickname. Boot. The kid’s entire being was discounted because he had a crooked penis. No one took him seriously. No one cared what he had to say; his talents, his mind meant nothing. He was just a walking punchline. People are cruel. I felt terrible for a long time because, well, down there somewhere I think I really do have a conscience. I had no idea what the consequences of my little nick name would be.
So one night in college, after an afternoon/night of passionate drinking, I hopped on MSN Messenger to chat and saw he was on. I wrote this giant apology letter. Poured my heart out, basically. I’m sorry it happened, I’m sorry I started it, I feel like a piece of [crap]. God I was [terrible] during puberty. It had been nagging me for a while – that I needed to make amends with this guy.
Finally, a couple nights later I log in to my computer and he’s written just a few sentences. “I can’t tell you what that means to me. I know you probably did it for your own closure, but now I’ve got mine, too. I haven’t really spoken to anyone about all that stuff. I was in a very dark place through those years, and though I was given a new opportunity to start fresh in college it’s been tough, as you can imagine. We were young, and young people do some terrible things without understanding why they are terrible. All the best.”
That guy’s maturity was light years ahead of mine. Or any of ours, for that matter. I feel like I did a small good deed by trying to make amends, but he reciprocated an even better one: he gave me a whole new perspective on people.