Caroline Kuntzman
Forest Hills Northern High School, Grade 12

“You never really know a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it,” Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird.

Over the course of my life, I’ve discovered that people are mirrors, reflecting their surroundings. Some reflect precisely what is around them: kindness with kindness, happiness with happiness, stress with stress, but not everyone is like this. Some mirrors distort what they show, giving a glimpse of the truth, but not in entirety. Others still show the complete opposite, masking tribulation with a facade of contentment. Everyone reflects something.

Knowing what kind of mirror someone is can be difficult. People usually prefer not to say, especially if they fall into the second or third category. We reflect the way we do for a reason, perhaps unintentionally at times, but for a reason nonetheless. It may be to hide or cope with an ugly truth, something that seems like it cannot be shared and so the only way to handle it is to keep reflecting.

We cannot control what others reflect, or how they reflect, or always know why they reflect the way they do. What we can do help give them something beautiful to reflect. Treat them with kindness and respect, no matter how they may treat us.

It is through this grace, civility, that social progress is made. Treating others with kindness and respect may not always engender similar feelings, but it is far more likely to do so than responding to their behavior harshly. Feeding the fire of hatred with more hatred solves no problems; it only allows the fire to burn hotter, and with more legitimacy.

History shows time after time again that civility is the key to social progress. Consider Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela. Each of these men achieved their goals by responding to hatred with love, violence with peace, inflammatory actions with calm reactions. None of them were the perfect people society sometimes idolizes them as; but they were talented leaders with a gift for acting with respect and dignity towards others even when they were not treated likewise, and so they made a tremendous impact not just in their respective countries, but across the world.

We live in a society with more need for civility than ever before. With Capitol Hill seeming to become more polarized by the day, differences in culture, ideology, and religion contributing to conflicts all across the globe, and the press spreading harsh words like wildfire, there is a great need for words of healing and support, people willing to stand together and build the global community up instead of just themselves.

These people are out there. Sometimes they can be hard to see, amongst the hatred, the destruction, the violence, but they are certainly with us. At times, their actions are very noticeable. They may get the attention of the press for their incredible work; however, majority of the time, they are far more subtle. They are the people who make an effort to show others respect, perhaps not always succeeding, but putting a concentrated effort towards treating the world around them well, and recognizing that all people deserve the grace of civility.

Everyone is a mirror. We reflect the world around us, including the other mirrors and their reflections. We cannot control what others reflect, but the best way to be surrounded by beauty is to reflect it ourselves.

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