I rolled my eyes at Baby #4’s nursery school teacher last week. She had handed me a packet of papers for his turn to be “The Special Person of the Day.” I immediately thought of The Lego Movie, and thought I should send him to school with a glue lid strapped to his back. Come on, I am all for everyone embracing what makes them unique, but this seemed like an exercise in silliness. Oh, and homework for me, too.
When I read the packet, I began to see its value. The first page said I should send to school a snack that he likes, so he can share it with his classmates. As I’m not the type to log on to Pinterest and spend my afternoon sculpting with sticky rice crisps, I added graham crackers to my shopping list. Easy enough.
The second page stated the following directions:
Okay, now I was understanding this “Special Person of the Day,” and I concluded it was a brilliant lesson in empathy. Sharing things about ourselves in a context where others may not experience them fosters understanding, connection, and communication. Baby #4 decided to take Wolfie, his favorite toy, with him to present to his class. He decided that he would tell the story of how Wolfie came into his life.
When Baby #4 was a year old, we were shopping at a local department store. He was strapped into the front seat of the stroller, while Baby #3 was behind him on the sit and stand. Babies #1 and #2 were also with us, as was one of my nephews. The kids were well-behaved during our shopping trip, and I told them they could each pick out a stuffed animal from the display near the registers. Baby #4 did not want one, even with the other four children encouraging him to make a selection. After I loaded the crew into the van and we arrived back at home, Baby #4 was sad that he did not bring home a toy. Baby #1 gave hers to him, and from that moment on, Wolfie has been his prized possession. I’ve long suspected that Wolfie became his favorite not because he is a wolf, but because of his sister’s gesture of love. It was unprompted and unexpected, and Wolfie is a symbol of it.
I don’t think Baby #1 was attached to the toy, and it was not as if she was making a great sacrifice. Yet her actions told him she understood his frustration and sadness, and she cared enough to acknowledge his feelings and to try to alleviate them. Empathy.
These days, I see social media posts but I don’t hear a lot of communication. Everyone wants to be heard, but no one wants to listen. A few gestures of love–of stepping outside of our comfort zones, of trying to understand someone else’s fears and hopes, of confronting honestly what it is that divides us, and of working towards bridging those gaps among us–are the only way forward.
Everyone deserves to be the special person of the day every day.