As I walked down the hall at a local middle school where I spend time with 6th graders on a weekly basis I saw a former student from the previous session. With excitement I said, “Hey Billy how’s it going? What classes do you have this term?” Billy, not his real name, answered my questions while I moved along the hall to get to my classroom. As I waited at the door to greet my students as they walked in I heard Billy say to a student nearby, “Dude, she remembered my name. Mrs. G remembered my name!” For a moment I chuckled over his response as Billy was one of my, let’s say, more gregarious and energetic students. He is hard to forget. Moving on to teach two classes of sixth graders my mind moved away from the interaction with Billy, but crept up later in the week.
During this same timeframe I coordinated a showing of a film addressing anxiety to the local high school and community. The film is excellent! If you want to read more about it I suggest you check it out at Angst.
I was a bit taken aback at the level of disrespect some students displayed during the showings at the high school. Chatter, giggles and squirliness went in ripples from time to time throughout the various showings. I come from a clinical social work background which allowed me to look through a different lens, meaning I didn’t jump to thinking the kids making the noise were all troublemakers. Regardless, I was still irritated and amazed at the lack of willingness to quiet down. Following each of the showings a panel was available for discussion as well as questions. And, each time prior to the panel portion I had to lay down the law. In a nutshell I told the students I was speechless. For those who know me this doesn’t happen often. I drilled home that none of us in that auditorium knew who needed to hear the messages in the movie. What if those who really needed the support where too distracted? I also talked about what if this was the day, the day a student decided they had had enough. Then concluding I shared a personal experience and the room quieted.
When it was time for students to return to class a few students walked to the stage to talk with the panelists. Several students also came to apologize for the rudeness of their peers. Then, one male student, one of the students I was sitting close to while on the stage, came towards me, looked me in the eyes and said thank you. This was one of the students making noise, goofing off and a recipient of the “serious face” from me several times.
I think of these two young men and the word “connection” comes to mind. We need community to heal. What do I mean? Billy was amazed not only that I recognized him, but I remembered his name. He mattered. I hope he doesn’t have this shock response often as it could highlight his sense of not being seen, noticed, remembered or even existing. We need to be in community. Humans are designed to be engaged and part of a group.
Making an effort to show someone you see them is powerful! While standing in line at a store complimenting a person’s shirt or asking their opinion about something can make a difference. A connection to say...“I see you!” When walking down a busy sidewalk instead of looking away when your eyes meet another’s, look them in the eyes and nod or say hello. This can be a beautiful tipping point for a person who may be thinking of throwing in the towel. I know this to be true. When you are out in the world and you sense someone is having a bad day why not say, “It will get better”, or other words of encouragement.
The world needs more up-standers than bystanders in order to make change with the atrocities we have witnessed lately. Clearly there are children in this world, as well as adults, who don’t feel seen. What do you teach your children to do when they have a new classmate? What do you do when someone enters a group you are a part of? While at work do you make it a point to be a team player by paying attention if it appears someone feels like they are on the outside? What about that parent whose kiddo is having a tantrum? Do you roll your eyes or say some words to let them know you’ve been in their shoes? We all at one time or another hear about a person/family facing a difficult time. How can you offer support? A simple email or note can make all the difference. I can go on and on. The point is to notice, acknowledge and connect.
What am I suggesting? I’m asking for us collectively to grow more compassion for each other. Have empathy for what another may be going through. Find the pause prior to our reactions. Let go of judgement. “If you can’t say something nice then don’t say anything at all” needs to be thrown out the window. One can find something nice to say, yes, even for the person who has wronged you. Am I perfect practicing this one hundred percent of the time? NO! The operative word is “practice”.
I leave you with this song from Dear Evan Hansen You Will Be Found.
Now go forth and NAC! (notice, acknowledge and connect)
Keep on Thriving and Flourishing,