My son came home today with a giant piece of paper with his name written in the middle, surrounded by several incredibly kind words and phrases that his friends had used to describe him. He was beaming with pride when he showed me. It was, by far, his proudest moment in school to date.
To be recognized and appreciated for who we are, and to know that we are truly seen, is something that we all need in life.
When I was in grade 4, I was the new kid in school. Early on the school year I only had a few friends, and my self esteem was fragile at best. Our teacher decided one day to make the kids in our class stand up at the front of the room one by one so everyone could take turns saying something nice about them. Most of these kids had known each other since kindergarten, so their comments were the heartwarming, fun and silly sorts of things that you would expect to be said. I sat, slumped down low in my chair hoping the teacher wouldn’t see me, while I listened miserably to person after person being praised.
Eventually though, I had to take my turn. I stood, sullenly, beside the teacher’s desk with my back to the chalk board, and stared at my shoes. The room was quiet. There was a creaky spot in the floor under my foot, and I pushed on it a few times with my toe. I scratched my arm and looked up at the class.
“You’re the nicest person I’ve ever met,” said the girl directly in front of me.
“You’re really funny, too,” said the boy beside her.
I stared in disbelief as one by one the kids in my class took turns piecing my self confidence back together. Their words helped me to redefine the fractured image I had of myself. I had no idea any of these kids even knew my name, yet here they were telling me all sorts of truths that I had long since stopped believing. I wished they had told me sooner, but I was so grateful to be hearing it for the first time.
This is the kind of thing that I want to see more of in our schools. I want to see our kids building each other up with their words and their actions. I want our kids to know that they are valued, not just at home, but among their peers and in their community. I want our kids to also stand up and say something when they see that someone doesn’t value themselves. Kind words and an open heart can go a long way to healing the silent hurts of the world.