Several years ago when I was in 3rd grade I bought a yellow football. I was so excited to take it to school and play with it at recess. I don’t remember the details, but the ball ended up on the school roof, I was devastated! After school, I talked to the custodian. He brushed me off by saying he couldn’t get my ball down at that moment. I asked him later, and he told me he couldn’t find my football, I was pretty disappointed.
Whenever I was let down by adults when I was a kid, I vowed to do things differently when I got older. I have had many chances to show children that they do matter regardless of how big or small the problem. I have had this chance more often since I became an elementary custodian almost 25 years ago.
One of these moments came the other day when a second grade student came to me crying. She told me that she lost one of the lenses from her glasses in an air vent outside. This situation came at a really bad time. We had just received 5 inches of snow and I was tired of shoveling snow. The last thing I wanted to do was go looking for a lens from a pair of glasses. After much searching, I found the lens giving it to the girl waiting above. She was so thrilled to have the lens to her glasses back.
This made me realize we each have things that matter to us. They might not mean a thing to others but they matter to us. Small random acts of kindness make a difference in the lives of everyone, we have a connection with. When a student asks me to get their shoe off the roof, or they have a ball that needs to be blown up, I help them with a smile. The children at my school know that I care, and their concerns matter.
“If speaking is silver,
then listening is gold.”
When I was in 3rd grade, everyone would stand up to say The Pledge of Allegiance, except for a girl named Lisa. She was a Jehovah Witness. Everyone would stare at her, because she would just sit there. In our eyes she was different.
One day at recess when everyone had left the classroom, I was late getting out the door, I think I forgot my coat. I saw Lisa in the corner of the room sobbing. She was talking to herself. Under Lisa’s crying voice, she said, “Why don’t I have any friends, I don’t fit in, no one cares.” I said, “I will be your friend.” I think I startled her, and she said, “go away and leave me alone.”
I understood her pain. I felt lonely many times myself. I think this was the first time I could put myself in someone else’s shoes and truly empathize with what this person was going through. Stephen R. Covey says, “Seek first to understand then be understood.” We will definitely increase our listening skills when we seek to better understand every situation we are in.
When I was in third grade I was in a resource class for struggling students. One day I walked into class and I saw a table covered with many different coloring book pages. All the pictures were random pictures of a bear, doll, house, a tree, and many other different pictures. I asked Mrs. Foster what we were doing that day in class. She said we are going to color pictures.
I said I didn’t want to be the one that colors the picture of the doll. Why do you have a picture of a doll? Dolls are dumb. You guessed it I got the doll picture. My teacher said “I had no intention of giving you the doll picture until you made a big deal about it.” I was not happy while I was doing this assignment.
Mrs. Foster was teaching me a lesson. If you make a big deal out of things, you only make it worse. If I would have walked into the classroom, sat down, waited for instructions, I probably would have had a much different outcome.
This also brings to mind as a kid that it was my brother Mel and myself’s job to clean out the barn where our goats would eat, and sleep. When we were asked to “scatter sunshine”, we knew it was our job to shovel out all the goat manure, and hay mixture from the barn, and dump it on our garden.
When we made a big deal out of this task it took all day to shovel out the manure. When we did it with a good attitude it seemed like we finished the assignment a lot quicker. The lesson that has come from these situations is, your altitude determines your level of joy. When I am having a bad day, I like to emphasize the importance of a positive attitude by sharing a smile, with an encouraging word. This makes all the difference. You can change lives as well. Try it!