How a small act of kindness changed a life
For a long time, Lisa Maree Hall had no idea her small act of kindness had such a big impact on her former classmate’s life – that’s a big reason why she’ll be supporting Pink Shirt Day on Friday, 26 May.
Pink Shirt Day is a campaign run by the Mental Health Foundation to encourage people to stamp out bullying and be kind and supportive of one another.
“Pink Shirt Day reminds me that every day we have the opportunity to do something kind to someone else,” Lisa says.
“It doesn’t have to be a big gesture, it can be something small like a smile, a wave, saying “hi” or including someone in a conversation.”
In 2005, Lisa smiled at a new classmate. Although she didn’t know it at the time, her welcome helped give him the strength to complete his nursing degree.
“On one of the last days of my nursing degree, our tutor congratulated us on how well we’d done and asked us what had inspired us to continue our course.”
One of Lisa’s classmates talked about the challenges he had faced during his studies and how he’d thought about giving up.
“He was a recent immigrant to New Zealand and said he had experienced racism and bullying. He was also a male in a class of nearly all females and said he had felt like an outsider.”
He went on to explain that he hadn’t given up because one of his classmates had smiled at him early on, welcomed him by name and started including him in conversations.
“He turned to me and said that person was me. I was so surprised. I hadn’t realised my small actions had made such a difference. It was very moving and humbling. I hadn’t realised how important it was to him.”
Small gestures can make big differences
Lisa says since then she’s made an extra effort to be welcoming and kind to people.
“Even if I’m feeling shy or low in confidence I do it because it could lift that person up and make that person feel like they belong. Even if you don’t feel big and brave, a small gesture can make a big difference.”
Lisa experienced bullying at high school in the form of social exclusion.
“Unfortunately it’s pretty common. But it’s really important it doesn’t happen and that sort of behaviour doesn’t continue into adulthood. We need to stand up to bullying and put a hand out to help those people being bullied and excluded.”
Lisa plans to wear a Pink Shirt Day t-shirt on Friday, 26 May to show her support.
“I want to start conversations with people about what Pink Shirt Day means, why it’s important and the origins of it – how a small movement caused ripples around the world and evolved into what it is today,” she says.
“Pink Shirt Day gives visibility to the idea of looking out for each other, speaking up, raising each other up and stamping out bullying and exclusion as a result. I encourage everybody to take part.”