Today was amazing.
And yes, this post is going to be mostly self-serving, but gosh dang, I’m excited. Also, I’m dramatic.
Today I spoke to my first class (of 3rd graders) about treating others with physical differences respectfully. We talked about how it’s natural to notice differences, but not ok to stare. We talked about being curious and how to ask questions politely and respectfully. We talked about how important it is to not make fun of others. And I left them with this thought: YOU are valuable. Every single person is valuable. I asked if they knew what “valuable” meant and a sweet little girl raised her hand and said, “It means you’re worth something.” Perfect. I think there were a number of kids in that room who might have heard they were valuable for the first time. Or at least the first time in a long time. I was honored to tell them.
I’ll admit that the five minutes I stood in front while the kids were coming in was somewhat uncomfortable. One kid came right up and said, “You have one arm.” “I know, right?” I said. Awesome. I told him we were going to talk about it and he seemed good with that. There was a lot of staring going on. And you know why it was uncomfortable? I wanted to engage them all! But I had to wait to be introduced, ya know? Once Mrs. Robinson introduced me, though, it was game-on. “So, you guys are all, what…7th? 8th graders?” I asked. “NOOOOOOOOO!” they yelled. Putty in my hands. Er, hand. I was so comfortable with them and loved engaging them in the conversation. And they had wonderful questions! I showed them the jumping-rope video and they all laughed at the funny parts and clapped at the end of it. I was never more proud of what I do. “Wow…people really do like these!” I thought. I mean, I know that already, but it was a totally different experience to see it; to see their reactions.
At the end I fielded questions and juggled for them. They all ooh’d and aah’d as I juggled and cheered when I was done. It was awesome. And a mob of them came up afterward requesting LOH cards so they could go the website later! One kid even said, “I wish I had an arm like yours.” Was I really that good? So good that I made fully-limbed children want to have less arms? Eh, he was probably an exception.
But, my very favorite part was right as I was leaving. I had demonstrated how I tie my shoes as they all gathered around me a minute before, so as I packed-up I heard one of the teachers say, “Ok, so I know you’re all very excited to try tying your own shoes one-handed, but we need to move on now and you can try that at home tonight.” They were ALL trying to tie their shoes one-handed! The teacher looked at me and playfully said, “Thanks a lot.” I could only smile.
As I left, I called my wife. “Well…that’s it. Game over. This is what I’m supposed to be doing,” I told her. And I believe that. I need to be out telling kids and adults that they are valuable and helping them to see that this is true for everyone.
And this was as good a start as any.
(I’d like to thank my friend Pakou for inviting me to speak and the staff and kids at Leopold Elementary for having me! It really was a life-changing experience. See? Dramatic.)
(I videotaped the presentation, but haven’t checked to see if it turned-out yet. I’ll let you know.)