Sunday, June 1, 2008

Thanked a friend

While my son is in school, he often complains about schoolmates not playing fair. He doesn't think he is liked. Which got me thinking of my elementary years. Now I may be naive, but I always assumed that everyone liked me. Looking back, I didn't hang around with the best people but they always treated me kind, and never did or said anything that they knew was against my standards.

Thinking back, I kept remembering one specific boy that always included EVERYONE in whatever the rest of us were playing. There were times when the smelly boy who never brushed his hair would want to play. They rest of us who were used to being rude to him would tell him "no", but Zach always told us to let him. He made sure that anyone who wanted to play was included.

Now I'm an adult and can't always act this noble, let alone when I was a child. I couldn't help but feel like this was an amazing show of character by this boy. As we went through Junior High and High School together, Zach continued to be fair and kind. I wish I could say that I followed his example. Oh, I did at times, but not so openly as he did.

I felt that he should know how he blessed my life and helped me to feel included in school, which laid the groundwork for me to not be so insecure later. I "googled" him. I looked through phone books. I tried calling his mother's house, but she had moved. I DID catch a break though, and got an address to send a letter to Zach's mother explaining who I was and why I wanted to get in touch with Zach. A few weeks later, Zach's sister called and gave me his email address. This is a copy of what I sent:

Thanks so much for letting me email you. I wanted to tell you, "Thank you." I should explain;

My son, who is in third grade, struggled last year with children not playing fair at school. He tries so hard to be fair and include everyone. One night, he just broke down crying with frustration. My husband tried to console him. It started out fine, then my husband ended up saying that it was impossible to expect such a large variety of children to play fair and include others. That's when I interrupted. I told my son that when I was in elementary, we always had fun at recess. I was lousy at baseball and kickball- all sports. But I never felt left out. As I related the many instances in my mind of how the whole class would play games together, I realized something. You were always the ring leader. You were very influential with the other students, including myself. I never remember you being mean, exclusive, or unfair.

I have seen so many strong-willed students turn a group of peers against a poor, or awkward student. You could have done that with the influence that you held. But you didn't. I don't know why or how, but you defied the odds and stereotypes of "normal kids" and made our Elementary a GREAT place to go to school.

My husband thinks I remember those times through "rose-colored" glasses. That maybe I went to school in some nether-world where all children play nice. I know I might have been, and still may be naive. But I know how I was made to feel, and you played a big part in that. Therefore, I can tell my son with confidence that his school playground can be a place full of kind, fair children all working together. It just takes a "ring leader". If he wants the job- there's always an opening.

Thanks for filling the position so perfectly. Your example has lasted more than 20 years.

When I heard back from Zach I was so happy to know that I had made that connection. And although I didn't always set the example back then, I can start now, and teach my children that it is possible to play fair at school. I saw Zach do it.