Friday, September 9, 2011


Have you ever sat across from someone at dinner and offered a compliment like:

"That's a lovely dress...a beautiful color on you."

And received something like:

"Oh, this old thing. I've had it for years."

Have you ever gone backstage after a performance and said something like:

"You were wonderful. I loved the show and your work moved me to tears."

And been slapped back with something like:

"Are you kidding me? We were so off tonight....Damn, you should have been here last night....I can't believe you saw this show. I could just kill myself! I was horrible."

The height if rudeness, if you ask me, and my plan was to put an end to such ungratefulness at the get-go.

"Okay, kids, we're going to practice the Gracious Thank You."

The what-what, Ms. Ryane?

"It goes like this."

I walk over to Phoebe and offer my hand. She gives it a look of mistrust, then meets my eyes. Other kids gather around to watch, as if my hand might bite Phoebe on the neck. She finally accepts my offer.

"Phoebe, I thought your Titania was lovely. So clear and so strong. Congratulations."

I pump our joined hands up and down as she leaks a tiny smile.

"And, Phoebe you say...?"

Wait for it.

Um, thank you, Ms. Ryane?

"Exactly — only you don't look at our hands, or the floor, or other kids. You look right into my face and say something like Thank you so much or I appreciate you telling me that or whatever gracious reply comes to mind. Make sense?"

Try me, Ms. Ryane! Me, try me!

"Mark, what a wonderful job you did as Duke Theseus. So commanding and what a good voice you have."

Mark giggles at his buddies and holds only my fingertips as he shuffles from one foot to the other.

" way. Try that again, mister, and mean it. You need to start with a good handshake, not a dead fishy thing. And look me right in the eye."

He gives it another go. Mark stands taller, looks at me directly and gives me a good grip with his ten-year-old hand.

Thank you very much, Ms. Ryane!

In the week prior to our performances, I would surprise each of them at lunch or recess, at play or at rest, with an impromptu compliment. And we'd practice.

If I've taught them nothing else, I can sleep well knowing that I've planted the seed of graciousness.

Once I was comeing out for resess and I saw 3 of my firends walking together. I wanted to be with them so I walked over and they "We want some time together." I felt so left out.
—Rebecca, 3rd grade

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