• Susan Stopinski


Last week I had the joy of spending an evening with my 22 year old son.

That doesn't happen too often anymore. He is busy creating his life, as he should be.

And me? I am standing by...still being his mother, as I always will be. Trying to remember where the boundaries are with my adult child.

But that evening I shared a new experience with him, which is now a memory that I gratefully tuck in my heart.

We headed to Seattle where we would listen to motivational speaker Trent Shelton share some powerful life points.He talked of purpose and kindness and asked an important question "Who is in YOUR CRCLE?"

Who are your friends? Are they good people? Are they kind?

Who is it that you can count on at 2 in the morning?

Who is there when the champagne is flowing?


Who is there when you have nothing to celebrate at all???


Who encourages you to grow?

Who drags you down?

Who is happy for you?

Who hopes for you?

Who has your back?

Who are your friends?

Who is in YOUR CIRCLE?

That night opened up sweet life conversation between my son and I, the importance of good people in our lives and how Trent Shelton had spoken so many truths to both of us.

Little did we know that by the time the night was over my son would hear of his high school friends death and be thinking of circles and kindness in a whole new way.

His name was Cory. At 24 years old, he was laid to rest on a Tuesday.

It was the sort of day that took root in a deep heart like my sons that has already grappled with much in his short lifetime. The kind of heart that has known bullies and rejection yet remains one of the most resilient people I know, always seeking the strength to come out a better person.

It is the same heart that stood in a high school football locker room at age 15 -unsure of himself- needing a friend.

And there was Cory.

Cory who made the choice in front of other team members to be different. To stand up for what was right in the wake of another human being. To not wait in the shadows but instead to step forward and BE KIND.

My son had not seen Cory since high school. When news of his death reached his ears there was one overall remembrance he had of his team mate that I heard him repeat over and over;

"He was always good to me"

And I thought to myself, of all the things we can be remembered for...what a simple, profound and beautiful thing.

Cory is laid to rest now and I don't know how he lived his life or what he did in his walk with others during his short journey on this earth but what I do know is what he did for someone I love dearly, my son.

He took time to be kind, to be good to him.

I'm sure he died never knowing he had made a difference just by being nice. But my son knows.

Football practice and high school years have fallen by the wayside but there is a young man who walks forward never forgetting that someone stayed awake enough to notice him.

Look around and notice who is in your life. Who is in YOUR CIRCLE? Do they make you want to be a better person? They should.

Is there someone out there who could use some kindness? Yes. Yes there is.

" Life is short" is NOT a cliche. It is TRUTH.

We don't get to know when our time is up.

WHAT we do with our days matters.

HOW we care for others matters.

WHO we surround ourselves with...MATTERS.

KINDNESS matters.

A lot.

It can make a difference.

It did for one.

Ask my son.