Below, is the first of what SCN plans to offer as a monthly student-written, ‘This I Believe,’ column. To kick off, we are pleased to feature, “I Believe in Kindness” by Melanie Eskew, a 15-year-old sophomore at Stockbridge Jr/Sr High School. In addition to polishing her writing skills, Eskew involved in FIRST Robotics, Science Olympiad and Quiz Bowl.
For the past several years, Stockbridge High School and the Stockbridge Friends of the Library have collaborated to offer an essay-writing contest in order to engage SHS students in an exploration of the core beliefs that guide their daily lives. Held twice a year, the contest is based on NPR’s four-year-running and now defunct “This I Believe” program.
According to Stockbridge Jr/Sr High School teacher Jessica Martell, students wrote essays and delivered them as part of Speech Day, her favorite day of the semester. “It showcases these young students at their best,” she said. “Some students are incredibly gifted writers, some are dynamic performers, some demonstrate vast courage in sharing difficult stories, and some prove to be wonderfully supportive audience members and friends. While most of them start out a bit nervous to present, afterwards, they’re so proud of themselves for sharing something real.”
The essays, submitted anonymouslyto a Friends of the Library panel, are reviewed and winners recommended. The Friends then contribute $25 to first place, $15 to second place and $10 to third place. Winners are typically photographed and their images displayed in the library.
Teacher Alaina Feliks, who has worked on the project with the Friends since 2014, said, “It has become quite a tradition.” She credited Elizabeth Cyr, SHS’s nationally acclaimed journalism and yearbook teacher, for initiating the program with the Friends of the Library, and also the Red Sky Café, a predecessor to Cravingz Café, for originating the local activity.
I Believe in Kindness
by Melanie Eskew
Cassie woke me up with her cries. My eyes and ears were still recovering from my deep sleep, I didn’t process the news she had given me.
“Pop had another stroke and died this morning.”
This news didn’t shock me, however. The hospital called us earlier that week and warned us that he might not live much longer and if he did, he wouldn’t be able to talk and would be paralyzed.
I didn’t process what had actually happened until I got on the bus to go to school and my bus driver started talking to me.
“How’s your Pop doing? I miss seeing him waiting out there with you.”
My tears came rushing out, like a dam bursting and releasing all of its water. I felt like I was just hit by a truck. I wasn’t emotional because I would never see him again, I was emotional because I never had the chance to show him how grateful I was.
My great-grandmother, Gram, and my great-grandfather, Pop, welcomed my sister and me into their home when my mom was incarcerated in 2010. Although, the transition was rough, Gram and Pop treated us like kids of their own. I never had a fatherly figure in my life because my dad had to move away when I was only a toddler. However, Pop changed that.
He was not a perfect man and did have his bad days, but his good days outweighed the bad. Pop would always wake Cassie and me up on school mornings and would make breakfast for us. During the day, he would take us on walks in the woods and at night time, he held my hand down the dim hallway that led to my bedroom because I was terrified of the dark.
Although I loved Pop, I wasn’t always kind to him. I always found myself brushing him off when he tried to make conversation with me. I was embarrassed when he waited with me at the bus stop because I was afraid of what the kids on the bus would think. Never did I realize how great a man he was until he passed. It takes a lot for a 74-year-old man to start taking care of kids again even though at that point in his life, he should have been traveling and enjoying his retirement.
I’m ashamed of how I treated Pop when he was still here. After I realized he was gone, I was angry at myself for never showing how grateful I truly was and not being able to apologize to him for the things I’ve said and done. Now that I am more mature than I was five years ago, I would do anything to go back and treat him the way he deserved to be treated: with kindness and respect.
I’ve learned the hard way to always be kind to people and remind your loved ones of how much they mean to you, especially the elders in your life. My great-grandmother is 82 years old and still takes care of me. She has played a huge motherly role in my life, and I’m aware that she won’t be around for too much longer.
I show my appreciation towards her by making her breakfast, lunch, and dinner on most days knowing simple tasks like that are difficult for her. And even though my sister is a pain, I still do my best to spend as much time with her as I can and treat her well because I believe in kindness. And I’ve learned that tomorrow is never promised and I wouldn’t want my last memory with a loved one to be something regretful. Now I may not be rich with money, but I am rich with great people in my life who deserve to be reminded of their worth by showing them nothing but kindness and respect.