In 1994 my good friend Dr. Joel Miller, and I opened a Tae Kwon Do Studio in Fort Myers, Florida. We had very few students, but after putting a big bright sign out front with "Tae Kwon Do" in large letters, we were ready for our Grand Opening! It had great visibility much to the landlord's chagrin-we were breaking the building code. However, I had no classes scheduled that evening, so I continued working in the studio. A small, scholarly-looking man walked into the studio inquiring about classes. I told him we had a class scheduled for the next night, but he said that would not work for him. I did what any enterprising martial arts instructor would do and offered him a private lesson on the spot. To my surprise he agreed and as I worked with him, he told me a little bit about his back ground. He held a position as a department head at a very prestigious private school. He seemed nervous but he tried very hard to do the lesson and ended up soaked with sweat at the end of class. I gave him information about classes and as he left, he shook my hand and thanked me for fulfilling a dream. A martial arts class had been on his to do list for years.
I started a regular schedule of classes the following week, and my first private lesson student came back for regular classes. He had been training with me for several years, when he told me he had stopped a much larger man trying to mug him and his five-year-old daughter. I am a Master level Instructor and teach Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido and my student had been training in both arts. We were getting ready to start a class when another student walked in and thanked me for saving his life in front of the other students. He had been struggling with a drug addiction and the class gave him the structure he needed to beat his addiction. It surprised, and pleased me, even though I really did not feel like I could take credit for anything.
In a small very quiet voice after everyone was gone my scholarly student said, "I know how that guy feels". Confused, I ask him what he meant. Do you remember my first lesson,” he asked? ‘I remember it very well,’ I replied. He looked away for what seemed like a very long time, and in a very small voice finally spoke. "I had decided to go home to commit suicide, when I saw your TKD sign. I always wanted to take a martial arts class so I decided to treat myself…take a lesson and then go home and kill myself. I had the gun and the bullet; I had researched how to do it with one shot, and that was my plan." Astounded I asked him, ‘Why?’
"I thought my wife and I were headed for a divorce, and I missed my daughter, and my wife. My best friend had just committed suicide. I thought if it worked for him it will work for me." ‘What stopped you"’ I asked? "You did", he again replied! "I felt like all the kindness had been sucked out of the world, my world anyway. You were so kind and it had been a very long time since anyone had been kind to me. I forgot what it felt like. I’m not blaming anyone, I just felt so alone. I loved the lesson and it became a lifeline for me. Had you been a jerk I would not be alive today, and the funny thing is I do not even know who that guy is anymore-the one that wanted to kill himself." After a long silence he said, "Thank You!"
In the end only kindness matters!