Monday, December 23, 2013
Open Candy, 20 Questions, and A Good Man
If you've left your house anytime within the past 48 hours, you know that there is just a tiny bit of Christmas craze going on out there. Busy parking lots, bustling shoppers, and long lines. For the most part, I've noticed that people are behaving pretty kindly to one another. After church yesterday morning, I found myself in Target for a few last minute stocking stuffers for my brother. Yep, he's 26 and we both still love stockings the most. In fact this year, that's all our family is doing. Stockings. To be honest, there just isn't really anything that any one of us needs or wants badly enough to have a huge present fest over. Actually, what I'm most excited for is Christmas Eve service with my small but wonderful family and my mom's tasty prime rib dinner on Christmas Day.
Yesterday afternoon, my husband, Tayo, and I were at Big 5 waiting to check out. I couldn't help but watch the young boy in front of us with his dad as they purchased a couple basketballs. If you're an educator, you know how this goes. It's that moment when you notice a child who needs a little guidance and you have to make the choice to either put on your teacher hat and guide or look the other way and ignore. I remember last year about this time of year when a kid dumped a ton of DVDs on the floor at Best Buy and then walked away as if nothing had happened. If you know me at all, you know that there was NO way I was going to let that fly but yesterday, I sat back and watched, and I'm glad I did.
This little boy who I'd guess was probably a kindergartner, stuck his hand in the candy jar, started to unwrap a piece of bubble gum and kindly said to the cashier, "Ummm, excuse me, can I have this?" The dad (who clearly saw the gum was unwrapped) told his son, "No, put that back," and the little boy put the opened gum back into the jar. I gave Tayo my best Principal Fadeji "Really?!" expression, but much to his happiness, I kept quiet. The kindergartner then wandered over to the credit card machine. "Excuse me, what is this red button for?" "Excuse me, what happens if I push this button?" "Excuse me, what is the yellow button for?" "Excuse me, does this button do anything?" By this point I was this kid's number one fan. Not only was he using his "excuse me" manners, but his level of curiosity was so awesome that I couldn't help but give him approving smiles after each question. After about 16 more questions (all of which the cashier answered with simple, yet kind responses) the little boy and his dad left the store.
As we proceeded to check out, Tayo said very sincerely to the cashier, "You're a good man." Without skipping a beat, I half gasped, half interrupted and said, "Really?!" I mean in my mind, the cashier was polite but he could have extended the kid's thinking a little more. In an effort to make the moment a little less awkward and pump up the cashier's ego (which I had just accidentally deflated), I said, "Oh, yah, you were great! But I mean kids are supposed to be curious, he was like 5 years old!" In that moment a bunch of things came together for me.
I realized in that moment that being an educator, I expect the adults around me to coach children. I expect our students to use manners, and I expect curiosity to be completely acceptable and encouraged. I also expect people to cheer each other on, to encourage one another and to point out the successes of others that are worthy of celebrating. That's the culture I'm working to create at my school and in my community. And for just a small moment at Big 5 yesterday, I saw that culture being replicated in the midst of Christmas craze and it made me smile. Those unexpected moments are real. And sometimes they start with open candy, 20 questions, and acknowledging a good man.