Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Big Lesson From a Small Suitcase

As many of you know, I am an early childhood professional working as a children’s museum consultant. My job involves a fair amount of travel and the entire airport process from start to finish is my least favorite part of my business trips.

Getting my luggage from baggage claim at the end of my journey is one of the hardest tasks.  By the time I disembark from the plane, I am tired, usually hungry, and always wishing I had my own set of ruby slippers that would instantly beam me home with the click of my heels. The trip I came home from last week was no exception.  I trudged over to baggage claim with no charge left on my cell phone which always puts me in a bad mood and barely enough energy to collect my suitcase and head for home.  Wearily I watched the conveyor belt chug along, around and around, hoping that my business-like dark magenta suitcase with the decidedly not business-like cute little identifier pom-pom on the handle would appear very soon.

As I was waiting, something caught my eye.  Well, actually, not something, but someone. Sitting on the silver frame of the conveyor belt, but not on the actual moving part of the mechanism, was a little girl about 7 years old.  My “watch out for child” safety alert was instantly engaged.  She was not in a spot where she would definitely get hurt, but she was certainly in a precarious enough position that she could get hurt.  I quickly looked around for adults that belonged to her and I saw a couple, probably her parents, watching her carefully.  “Good”, I thought, relaxing a bit.  I then saw a small, multi-colored child’s suitcase round the corner on the conveyor belt.  Immediately the little girl jumped off the frame on which she had been sitting and stood up straight, tall, and alert.  As the bag came close she grabbed the handle, wobbled a little as she wrestled it off the moving belt and then triumphantly stood it on its small wheels and pulled it over to her family.  Her smile was as big as her voice was proud.  “Mom, I did it! I did it by myself! I told you I could!” 

Wow.  This entire episode probably only took less than three minutes but I felt like I watched an entire Child Development course flash before my eyes!  Her wise parents never once told her to be careful, though they were watching her every minute.  And no words along the lines of “let me help you” ever left their mouths. They allowed their daughter to assess the risk of sitting where she chose to wait, and then to accomplish all by herself what needed to be done. Risk-taking is an important part of growing up.  And in our modern day and age, there just aren’t the opportunities for children to take risks like there used to be. Very few children today have opportunities to climb and then hang upside down from the top of the monkey bars, soar high above the ground on a teeter-totter, scramble up a tall tree’s branches, or skip rocks at a small, neighborhood creek, which make up many of my fondest childhood memories. Yet, children still have the same need they have always had to learn how to take well thought out risks in life. Her parents seemed to really get that. 

And, not only did she learn in those few minutes how to assess her risk and make a good decision, she also found out that she was capable of doing exactly what she knew she could do.  Another important life lesson for this brave and confident little girl.  If her parents would have jumped in and told her, to be careful, or if they had walked over to help her,  this powerful experience would not have had this same positive ending. 

They walked away and I turned my attention back to the conveyor belt. There was my dark magenta suitcase with its quite distinctive pom-pom making its way toward me.  Time for me to go home and call it a day.  Still tired. But smiling.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Have a Great Night"

I thought I was just going to the grocery store after work to get bread, cereal, juice and a few other essentials.  Boring, but necessary. I had no idea that I would receive so much more by the time I walked out the door.

I shopped in sort of a hurried haze.  My movements and choices were so automatic that I hardly had to think about what I was doing, other than making sure I bought the cereal with the almonds instead of the raisins this time. Okay, time to checkout – find the shortest line – almost done – I’m tired – just want to get home. Whew, I found a check out lane with no one else in line, yes!!

The young man working the cash register was chatting with the girl who was the bagger.  He was explaining that his mom was working two jobs now, yet things were still rough, money-wise. He was glad it was payday. He was going to give her part of his check to help out this month. The girl bagging told him she understood.  She shared that her mother wouldn’t get home until late that night from work so she cleaned the house to surprise her mom. As I finished putting my groceries on the conveyor belt, I just had to say something.  “I heard you talk about how you are helping out at home and I think it is pretty awesome.” They both just smiled.

After I was efficiently checked-out and my expertly bagged groceries were in the cart, I was told to “Have a great night”.   And I thought to myself, thank you, I already did.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Power of Ordinary

It happened so quickly that I almost didn’t realize the significance.   A typical Saturday afternoon, zipping in and out of stores taking care of the myriad of errands that seem to be part of every weekend.

I was getting ready to depart from a favorite local business, behind a young boy, about twelve or thirteen years old. He was walking out the door, following a slightly older looking girl into the small parking lot.  I noticed that the older girl, rather than holding the door open, had let the door almost slam on the boy as he was walking out of the store.  There was a quick look of surprise and hurt on his face as the door almost hit him.  It was a windy day and the way the wind was blowing made the door more difficult to control. Then, as I walked out, this young boy turned and held the door for me, with a shy smile.  I thanked him and the moment was over.

But wait, what just happened here?  Something pretty amazing. This young boy’s face had shown his distress at having the door almost hit him and yet a second later he turned around and made sure I did not have the same experience.  Within no time at all, he had processed his hurt and made the decision to make things better for the next person, who just happened to be me.

Such an ordinary gesture.  And yet so powerful that I hope I always live up to the example set by a young boy on a windy day.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Lesson Learned

It’s a morning ritual.  I wake up.  Wherever she is, when I open my eyes my cat knows this is the moment she has been patiently awaiting.  A leaping pounce on the bed, a well-positioned jump on my chest, and a ball of fur snuggles into my neck, welcoming me to the dawning new day.   My cat. I belong to her, and she belongs to me.

What does it actually mean, belonging?  Does she belong to me because I faithfully feed her, clean her litter box, take her to the vet, and dangle endless toys with swishy feathers and soft colors for her to swat?  No.  She belongs to me and I belong to her because I have a piece of her heart and she has a piece of mine. Very big pieces.

Belonging. It is not about food or toys or even a quite fancy cat tower in the middle of our family room.

Belonging is about trust and love and feeling safe and knowing you are treasured.

She teaches me this so well.  And I carry that lesson with me.  And the day begins. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Coming Back

So I started on this blogging thing a few months ago. And I loved it. I have always turned to writing in good times and bad. Then I changed jobs.  And became even busier than before.  How is that even possible? And I don’t think it was just the job change. I just couldn’t figure out how to make time for the writing because all of a sudden it seemed too hard to find the time. And time is precious. But there was that nagging little voice inside my head, telling me something was missing.  I had it and then I lost it. Something very important to me. Something precious. But time is precious. And then I put it together. Writing is precious too.  But even then, I still just kept thinking about it, just thinking. 

And then, my phenomenal Listen To Your Mother friends came through for me, as they always do. Truly a lifelong sisterhood. With suggestions on how to get back on track. Never judging, just encouraging. 

And then there was the journal.  My sweet, sweet daughter gave me this journal to write down blog ideas before they flew past my mind into the wind.  And the journal was on my desk.  And it was waiting.

So here I am again.  Writing.  Feeling quite pleased. Setting aside time to write every day. My time.  Because time is precious.