‘You can be smart, you can be beautiful, but if you don’t know how to treat people, if you don’t walk into a room and say hello, if you don’t say thank you, if you’re not looking out for the kid who’s sitting alone by his or herself, then who are you?’ Michelle Obama
One of the things I truly love about parenting is when I hear something I believe is of value coming back out of my kids’ mouths. Oh sure, this very same parroting has come back to bite me in the keister more often than I care to admit (like the darn sailor-esque language inspired by driving amongst these less-than-skilled drivers; what the kids hear me say in the car is supposed to stay in the car but apparently they love my enthusiasm when I say what I do so repetition is inevitable), but the good lessons come back, too.
My friend was telling me about her daughter, and an interaction she was having with a frenemy. Very wisely, this little 6 year-old told the other child “‘Mean’ comes back to you.” How you treat people is important, and when you don’t take care with your words or with your actions, it does indeed come back to you. At this point in time, this child, the frenemy, she may be the ring-leader, and she may be the one who can influence her peers to ignore another, or play a game that is not especially nice to all involved (exclusion games are so my pet peeve; who on earth invented keep-away?). You know what? There are always going to be kids who don’t have friends to sit by or hang out with. Sometimes kids don’t have the confidence to take a chance and ask ‘Can I play, too?’ Sometimes, that can be the hardest sentence a kid can ask, and they would rather sit alone – and lonely – than take that chance. Sometimes, it’s up to another child to look out for that lonely one, and invite them to play. Because kindness can come back to you, too.
The same can be said for adults, too. As much as we move in this vagabond lifestyle, as often as we have had to resettle in a new country with people we don’t know, in a school or community where I see groups of friends, none of whom are known to me, I know what it’s like to be the new kid. We used to move often enough when I was a kid, too. It’s never fun to be the new kid, and it is never never easy. When I was a kid, I was lucky in that my sister was always there, in my same grade, so I always had a built-in friend at recess. Even now, sometimes, when we’ve landed someplace new, I wish I still had that built-in friend. Now it’s my job to take care of three little tag-alongs, so it’s not like I can sit on the side of the playground alone. Still, being occupied by the tasks of child-tending is not the same thing as being occupied by a companion. So, I’ve taken it upon me (as a mom, and here as an over-sharing voice on the ‘net) to remind/nag: reach out to others. Help them acclimate. Help them enjoy their time at the playground/post. Say hi, and chat for a minute or five. You will have something in common. You will find something to chat about. Perhaps you won’t become best buddies, but for a brief time, your taking the time to reach out will make a difference. Being new is hard; reaching out is not. It takes minimal effort and the pay-off can potentially be huge.
I tell my kids ‘a person can never have too many friends’. I think this is one of the few of my truisms that they have not argued with.
I am a compassionate sort of a person (My hubby uses less complementary terms and has been known to describe me as a bleeding heart.). I am the sort that gets tears in her eyes when she reads about someone getting hurt, or sees another being – be they human or fur-covered – in pain. I tend to reach out. Sometimes it’s tiring; sometimes -- more often – it is rewarding. Regardless, though, it makes me feel better to try to help another. I like to think that my kids see me doing this, and they are learning a lesson to do the same. The world could use a few more hands reaching out, methinks.