In a world that tells us boys should be raised “rough and tough”, should shed no tears, and “take it like a man”; a local mom has been my inspiration for the exact opposite.
Courtney Campbell and her husband Tony have a high school senior who is “doing kind”. Raising two boys myself, I wanted to know her secrets and tips to help guide me as I build the foundation of kindness for my children. Perhaps other moms can glean some wisdom from her input as well!
How would you describe your son, Brayson?
Courtney Campbell: Brayson is sensitive, tender-hearted, innately kind. He is strong, very intelligent, a brat sometimes (especially when he first wakes up … after all, he is still a teenager!), knowledge-hungry, full of weird information and facts. He is “just Brayson”. He lets most things roll of his back … pretty easy-going. He doesn’t do things for attention. He just does what he does and doesn’t need anything in return. He’s humble. He’s a quiet warrior. Still does things that get him in trouble, but he has such a pure heart.
When did you first notice that Brayson had innate kindness in his heart?
Courtney Campbell: Brayson has always had a gentle spirit. He was my “snuggler” when he was little. We’ve just always known Brayson to be this way. He was still a rough-housing boy, sometimes hitting his sister, and fighting with her, but his spirit was/is so gentle. I was just looking back through one of his scrapbooks last week and came across a letter that I had asked his preschool teacher to write to him when he was 3 years old, back in 2005. Even in her letter to him, she mentioned ”Whenever you were treated unfairly you didn’t balk, squalk, or hit- retaliate- as I would expect a 3 year old, but rather, you looked at me with an expression of genuine confusion and betrayal. I could see in your eyes that you could not imagine why anyone would mistreat another person. I know you will always keep this understanding of injustice in your heart and use it, with God’s grace, to make the world a better place.”
What did you and your husband do to nurture Brayson’s innate leadership ability?
Courtney Campbell: Nothing in particular. I have always tried to encourage him to lead by example, especially as he got to high school. Brayson was automatically put into a leadership role as quarterback of the football team. Even if he didn’t want to be, people were going to look to him as an example. I have always encouraged him to “make being kind cool”. I would explain to him that even if he didn’t realize it, people would know who he is, especially little boys who would watch him play on Friday nights. I just always reminded him that someone is always watching and to make sure he led by example.
Tell us about the coronation! The videos and photos shared on social media show both Brayson and Abby smiling and enjoying every moment. How do you think the coronation will affect the two for years to come?
Courtney Campbell: Coronation was such an awesome experience! Brayson has known Abby since they were in elementary. He told us one time (maybe in 3rd grade or so) that Abby had a locker by him and he would make sure nobody was mean to her. As they got older, they didn’t really see each other, but when they became seniors, we thought that would be a great time to reconnect. Brayson asked Abby to be his “Bleacher Babe” during the football season. This is just something fun that the Lindale student body does. Abby would wear her “Bleacher Babe” shirt on Fridays to school and it would have Brayson’s name and football number on the back. The “Bleacher Babes” will usually give their football player a little treat/good luck gift on game days. It’s just a fun little thing they do to show support. Well, after football season ended, and it was time for coronation, Abby asked Brayson to be her escort. Abby was a queen nominee (and won!). Brayson was honored to escort her. It was such a memorable experience and I’m sure they will always remember it!
After the coronation, many have called your son a “kind and gentle spirit”; an “outstanding young man”. You and your husband were praised for raising “a real gentleman and a sweetheart of a young man.” And to Brayson: “you are going to do BIG things.” How do these compliments make you feel?
Courtney Campbell: This year, especially with it being his senior year, Brayson has gotten a lot of recognition. At the football banquet this year I was moved to tears during the coach’s speech about him. Like I mentioned earlier, Brayson is very humble and quiet about what he does. There are a lot of “kind” things Brayson does that his dad and I never hear about. Brayson doesn’t tell us, he just does them. Then, later down the road, things come to light… we’ll run into someone, or a friend will tell us something, or we hear his football coach give a speech about him at the football banquet…. And then I just beam with pride. How can you not? … Another example: We were all just talking at home one day a couple of weeks ago and Brayson said, “You know what language I would like to learn?” I could tell he was going to say something I didn’t expect. He said, “American Sign Language. There’s this customer at work who comes in a lot and she’s deaf. I try to talk to her with the few signs that I know, but I would like to know more so I could talk to her a little more.” That. Just that. Those are the little things his heart does. Later that evening I told him that he should look up a few videos and learn a few phrases, to which he replied, “Don’t worry, mom, I’ve already downloaded the apps.” LOL! I will never get tired of hearing wonderful things about him and I hope he continues to do amazing things!
It’s often the case that children with kind hearts find themselves the target of bullying. Thankfully, you have told me that Brayson has not experienced this. What could you and Brayson tell kids who are faced with bullies?
Courtney Campbell: Listen, I know it’s hard for kids… many kids can be so cruel, especially now with social media everywhere. My advice would be to just hang on. Be true to yourself. Someday soon these kids will grow up and so will you, and if you just hang on to your true, kind self, someday it be worth it. Don’t be a doormat, still stand up for yourself, but don’t forget who you are. Kindness will always be worth it, even if you don’t realize it until years later.
Brayson Campbell: Don’t let them get to you. They are only trying to break you down for their own confidence. If you don’t retaliate, they will eventually stop.
What does Brayson think about being a role model for younger boys or even those his own age?
Courtney Campbell: Honestly, I know he knows he’s a role model, but I don’t think he realizes sometimes how much people see him. He’s just always been himself and I don’t think he quite grasps that he is in that position. Anyone/everyone is a role model… just what TYPE of role model will you be?
Brayson Campbell: It’s hard trying to be a role model for younger kids because you don’t want to lead them to do something wrong. However, it keeps me doing the right thing in order to not be seen as a failed role model.
In your opinion, what can we do as parents to teach and instill kindness in the hearts of our children?
Courtney Campbell: Show it- lead by example. Also, I try to explain to my kids that something kind that they might do for someone may not seem like a “big deal” to them, but it could be a HUGE deal to the recipient of your kindness. Something so little that you may do for someone could totally just make their day. You have no idea how something so small could make an impact on someone. Use everyday opportunities to explain kindness to your child. Being kind isn’t hard. Hold open a door, smile at someone, say thank you, please, how are you, etc. See a piece of trash? Throw it away. See someone struggling to carry stuff? Help them. It’s not hard! Also, this is one thing that we can be thankful is contagious. Someone sees you being kind and it makes it easier for them to be kind. It doesn’t have to be some grand gesture either. Another example: At a track meet a couple of weeks ago there was some kid throwing large rocks onto the track. No one was really paying attention to him. He was standing next to me and my husband. Brayson just happened to be standing there talking with us as this was happening. As Brayson was leaving us to head back down to the track for his race, the kid threw another rock onto the track. I was going to holler at Brayson and tell him to pick it up so a runner didn’t trip on it, but he was already too far away. A few minutes later I look down at the track and Brayson was picking the rocks up. Not a big deal, right? Right. It’s just a matter “being” kind and “doing” kind.
Photos courtesy of Courtney Campbell & Beverly Somes