64. The Good Deed Challenge

64. The Good Deed Challenge

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength

The Good Deed Challenge

Good actions give strength to ourselves and inspire good actions in others.

~Plato

The summer of 2011 marked my first summer as an alumnus of Central Michigan University. The idea of a “big kid” job made me nervous and I had an itch to travel before I became tied down by the nine-to-five grind. As a friend and I sat and indulged in small talk, I mentioned my desire to travel. This friend told me that her boyfriend was working at a restaurant in the beautiful state of Alaska, and he could get me a job as a seasonal server for the summer. I put in my application the next day, and was interviewed the day after. Within one week, I accepted a job in Alaska and was on a plane for the adventure of a lifetime.

I was fortunate enough to receive a job as a server at the end of the summer season, lasting only two months. Seasonal jobs usually last four to six months, with the last two months becoming competitive. Within those last two months, employees try to make as much money as they can before they either fly home or depart for their next seasonal job. I arrived during this competitive time, not knowing a soul; I was an outcast. Because of the competition, a few of the other servers would try to get new people to quit or get fired. How could they get someone to quit or get fired? Workplace bullying, and I was the victim.

With this job, everyone worked and lived together, making it impossible to escape. I had awful cell phone reception, making it difficult to call family and friends. It was nearly impossible to get on the Internet, so I was stuck and couldn’t talk to my friends or family about what to do. I was isolated and alone with my struggle.

There were two bullies in particular who made a valiant effort to get me to quit. If I asked, “Hey, how are you?” the response I got would be, “Why are you talking to me? I hate you! I don’t ever want you to speak to me again! I can’t wait until you’re gone!” There were times when one of the bullies became physically abusive, but I was too nervous to tell my boss. I didn’t want to look like a rat, and I was intimidated.

Every day, I thought about how easy it would be to quit and go home. Get back to my friends, get back to my family, and get back to my life.

But life throws you in a mud puddle once in a while and your character is developed by how you get back up and clean yourself off. I realized this situation was my mud puddle and my character would be defined by how I climbed out of it.

I took a step back and looked at my situation from a different perspective; I started to make observations on why I was being bullied. Broken souls and past demons have a way of causing permanent damage to people. These people sometimes allow bitterness and hate to govern their lives. I realized that the average age of employees was eighteen to twenty-two, but the main bully was thirty-one. I began to question why he enjoyed working with younger individuals and what his goals were. I then thought back to the first day he bullied me.

The first time he bullied me was in a group. As he said an incredibly mean comment to me, everyone laughed, including me. I wanted to act like this comment didn’t have an effect on me, but I didn’t think about the outcome it would have on the bully. He realized that his mean comment made people laugh, making him friends. I then realized that the only way he knew how to make friends was by picking on others. If he hurt one person to make five others laugh, he was winning. My goal was to change this habit and outlook. I decided to start a good deed project! This response to my bullies ended up changing my life in a way I could have never imagined.

My good deed project was a bit of a case study. I decided to do a good deed every day for my bullies, one in particular. I made sure I knew his schedule so I didn’t miss any days. I opened the door for him when I saw him, and I did everything I could to make his life easier. After I began making a conscious effort to do daily good deeds, I noticed he stopped acting as rude and hateful. As I did these good deeds, I studied how my bully’s persona would change from an individual setting to a group setting. After a couple of weeks, one of the bully’s friends made a statement that helped strengthen my backbone.

“You don’t deserve the way people are treating you; you deserve better than this.”

After that, I started making friends, some of whom were friends of the bully. Being accepted made me a much happier person, showing me the importance of inclusion. I was finally enjoying my time and believing in myself.

Having mutual friends with the bully created a conundrum for him. My bully was faced with a tough situation: be nice to me and hang out with me and our friends, or continue disrespecting me and risk losing all of his friends. Remember how he thought bullying made him friends? Now was the moment he had to explore a new path to friendship. This was where the light bulb turned on, and the case study worked. He gave me respect, and it saved me. I climbed out of that “mud puddle,” had a great summer, and learned a valuable lesson on how to handle any bullies that come into my life in the future.

~Andrew J. Nalian

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