Back-to-school shopping with my mom was always a joy. (Well, maybe the year where I was arm-twisted into wearing dresses one day of every week--seventh grade--wasn't such a *joy,* but other than that...) I think the older I got, the more fun it was--meaning, the less I dressed like an absolute tomboy, the more fun it was to pick out clothes. And even though the fall weather where I grew up in British Columbia stayed pretty warm and pleasant through September, it changed quickly afterward and stocking up on sweaters and corduroys early was a must. I can conjure up so quickly my favorite outfits from each year; I know this makes me sound like a little fashionista, but that's not how I remember it... I just really liked my outfits!
When I reminded Seth yesterday to get his school supplies together, and pick out his first-day-of-school outfit, both he and husband chortled and gave me a "whatever" kind of male reaction. Sigh. So I satisfied that little part of myself by picking out MY back-to-school (um, work) outfit for today.
The back-to-school anticipation that I've maintained in my life involves more than just the love of shopping. I'm a big fan of the school supplies angle--new pens! blank composition books! pencil cases! backpacks!--and everything that these supplies imply: this is a fresh start, and blank slate, a new year waiting to be the best it can be. I feel this way often at the start of a new calendar year (as many a resolution blog post can attest to), at the start of a new month, and even though it's now 23 years since I last started a school year, I still feel that way as fall begins and kids head back to the classroom.
This convocation speech has been shared widely on social media, but I can't help post it here for posterity and a reminder to myself. I love the sentiment that permeates the talk: be kind. Reading it took me back to situations in school where his words about regretting the failures of kindness really struck a nerve. There wasn't always overt meanness, but simply a lack of kindness. It's too easy to say that's just the way kids are; yes, there's a sensitivity that maturity brings. But I do believe that kids can be and are kind, if that is the culture and language that surrounds them.
In some ways, as I read George Saunders' speech, I thought, "I could have written this" about the regret of failures of kindness. There were at a number of examples in elementary school where a combination of subpar social skills and intellectual acuity brought scrutiny and criticism from peers. I have long regretted any role I played in making any fellow student feel "less than." Later, in high school as I looked back on those years, I was able to acknowledge to myself that I am capable of being less than kind. Owning that that propelled me forward into being more kind to those around me; especially those who may be on the fringes of social acceptance. I wish I could say I achieve it every day, but it certainly is a goal I strive for.
My wish for every kid I know is to live out the possibility of kindness this school year. To take the moment to reach out and actively be the friend and support, even just the smile, that makes someone's day better.
What would you wish for your kids, this school year? If you don't have kids in school, what would you like to see our young people focus on as they learn this year?
Jen and I are blog challenging throughout September. You can catch her blog over at Stuff Jen Says. If you want to write along with us, give me a shout and I'll send you the blog prompts.