Years ago I became friends with a lovely lady and this is her story.
She told me that she was the daughter of an immigrant couple who had come to our country to make a new life for themselves and their family. They had worked very hard and despite having no formal qualifications had managed to build up a very successful business. They wanted their children to do well and had done everything they could to ensure that they provided them with a good education and encouraged them both to study. Their encouragement paid off as both Susanna and her brother were very bright. Susanna in particular was so clever that she managed to gain entry to one of the most prestigious English Universities. Her Parents were naturally very proud of her and told all their friends about their clever daughters’ achievements. As the University was very far away from where they lived it was necessary for her to move to student accommodation. Before she left to start her first term her parents flung a huge party and invited all of their friends. They proudly drove her down and helped her settle in to her new room and then tearfully left her and went home.
Susanna was excited and scared but looking forward to meeting new people and learning new things. She went to student meetings, local cafes where other students hung out and joined many clubs but felt peripheral to it all and struggled to make any friends. To her it seemed as if everyone already knew each other and that they came from totally different backgrounds to her, she felt invisible. In phone calls home she lied and told her parents how wonderful it all was and described her many friends. She couldn’t bear to cause them any pain as she knew how important her success was to them. Eventually it all got too much. She began to think that it would be simpler if she just disappeared. She was sure that her parents would rather that than have to deal with her failure to fit in and the shame it would bring. Academically she was brilliant but socially she felt inept, useless and completely alone. Her brother, who was studying medicine, near to home was doing well and had already, brought several friends home to stay with him at his parents’ house, the pressure was mounting for her to do the same at the next break.
She began to store pain relief tablets and formed a plan. She would finish her first term and then she intended to take the tablets and relieve everyone of the burden she felt she had become. She dreamed it would be like lying down in black velvet and just going to sleep. No more pain for her and no embarrassment for her family. In her confused mind there was no other way out. The last day of term came and she went to what she believed was to be her last lecture. As usual she felt invisible as she walked through the cloisters and back towards her little room. It was snowing and the flakes which had been falling softly began to flow thick and fast, she tightened her coat around her and began to hurry. Then from behind her she heard a voice. Someone was shouting her name. As she had barely spoken to anyone the whole time she had been down there at first she thought she was mistaken but the voice from behind her was persistent. She stopped and turned around. A young man ran up to her breathless and laughing. “I thought you were never going to turn around he said , “I am totally out of breath trying to catch up” and he fell naturally in to step beside her. “What are you doing for the holidays?” he asked and before she could answer said “Home I expect, lucky thing!
Then he went on to chat to her about the lecture she had just been at and mentioned some ideas he had for the project they had to do the following term. Still dazed by someone actually talking to her she said “I am not coming back next term, this is my last day, I think”. He stopped and looked directly at her “Don’t be daft he said you are one of the brightest lights in that room, we would all miss you” Then he kissed her gently on the cheek and left. She stopped for a moment and felt ashamed. Here was someone who knew her name yet she didn’t know his and she realised how overwhelmed she felt by this small fact. She stood their dazed, the snow swirling all around her and made her decision. She slowly went to her room took all the tablets and flushed them down the toilet.
When she came back to start the next term she had unburdened herself to her parents, who had been horrified that she would have considered anything as daft. They reassured her that nothing mattered to them more than she and her brother did and that if she felt unable to cope there would be no shame in coming home. She arrived back at the lecture with renewed purpose and desperately tried to find the chap who had inadvertently saved her life as she wished to thank him and tell him what he had actually achieved by chatting to her that day. She spoke with many people and looked all over but was never to see him again. To her, it seemed that he must have been an angel sent to her that day and she has made it a daily part of her life to be nice to the people she meets no matter how dismissive or cold they may appear. As she says we can never tell the silent pain that someone might be suffering, so why would we choose to add to it or perhaps push them over the edge.
Hearing her talk so sincerely and with such conviction had a profound impact upon me and since then I have tried to follow her advice and be kind to the people I meet. Sometimes that is hard but to be truthful most people are very quick to be really kind back. The positive energy that this gives all of us has a ripple effect and moves out to touch the people in our lives and the people we meet. Susanna was not an angel but she was someone who felt touched by one and having been touched managed to spread happiness and sense to everyone she met. I hope that by retelling her story I am helping spread that happiness and love a little further and encourage anyone reading do the same.