Here are some things I think are important.
Here are some things I think are not that important:
- Most everything else
Today, I want to challenge you to fill your heart with what’s important and ‘be done’ with everything else. Meditate on the questions: “What’s most important to me? How can I fill my heart with these things and let go of the rest?”
For inspiration, I implore you to read this article, which features one of my favorite soon-to-be-fifth graders, Brayden Ingram. I’m proud to call Brayden my cousin (he just graduated from being ‘my baby cousin’ this summer when I realized he’s only 2 inches shorter than I am!) because he chooses compassion and generosity with his peers. This story is a perfect example of what it looks like when you fill your heart with what’s truly important and forget the rest. (You can read more inspiring stories here: Beyond the Spotlight.)
Jennifer Bradley, author of Beyond the Spotlight blog, writes:
“Missouri 4th grader Brayden Ingram is a “good kid.” In fact, he’s so “good” in school, that this year, he racked up piles of ‘good behavior tickets’ in the classroom. These tickets are the keys to unlocking all sorts classroom fun.
Brayden can use his good behavior tickets for special meals, fun events, and small prizes in the classroom. But it didn’t take long for Brayden to realize that the system that he benefits from is not entirely fair to other students. “I feel like the behavior tickets constantly leave someone out feeling hurt. I get sad when I see someone that didn’t get a prize. I get really sad when I see tickets being deducted from peers,” Brayden confided.
So this fourth grader decided to put his own spin on the system. He began to save his tickets so that he could share them with students who struggle more with classroom expectations and behaviors. “I got the idea when one of the boys at school used his tickets to buy me lunch in the classroom with him. Afterwards, I started saving up 110 tickets so I could buy lunch in the classroom for the whole class.” It took a month of saving up, but Brayden felt it was worth it to see the smiles on everyone’s faces.
But his generosity didn’t stop there. The fourth grade classes also held an end of the school year movie and party. Students were allowed to choose between 4 classrooms with 4 different movies, but there was a catch. They had to pay for admission and snacks, and admission cost 10 ‘good behavior’ tickets. Students who did not have enough tickets were to be sent to a separate room to read. Brayden thought that felt sad. He realized that some of his classmates did not have enough tickets for a movie, so he went around sharing his tickets with five of his classmates in the hopes that no one would be left out. He admits to feeling a bit nervous when he noticed so many of his tickets were being used, but he decided that if he was the one who needed to go read, he would be happy to do it for the good of the group. In the end, Brayden had enough tickets left over for his own movie and snacks. From buying lunch to his move at the movies, Brayden is a firm believer in paying it forward. “I did what I did to give other kids the opportunity to experience the fun events and to help them see kindness in the world and hopefully help them pass it on.”
And Brayden didn’t have to wait long for his kindness to spread. His Auntie Jen teaches 3rd grade at his school. Inspired by Brayden’s campaign, Jen decided to pay the library fines of 13 students so they could participate in the end of the year field day celebration activities. This story is so inspiring because Brayden not only practices caring and kindness in the classroom, but because at age 9, he was able to see how harmful seemingly “positive” reward systems can be for students who struggle with classroom behaviors.”
I know that Brayden and my cousin Jen (who has always been my ‘big cousin and someone I want to be when I grow up’) both spend time thinking about how to make the world a better place. Brayden’s example of generosity, kindness, and dedication should inspire all of us to ‘pay it forward’ every chance we get. One small act of kindness means one small decision for happiness. Many decisions for happiness means we can pursue a small happy life, and fill our hearts with what’s important.
How are you going to ‘pay it forward today?’ How can you fill your heart with what is important and ‘be done’ with the rest?