Friday, September 9, 2011

Merci



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.

"Whoa...no 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.


CHILDREN'S WRITES: A Journal Entry
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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