Thursday, July 26, 2012

on breaking the silence.

she's holding a christmas cookie. i like it. via here.
when i was in fifth grade, i was forcibly moved to a separate section of the cafeteria when my class went to eat lunch. permanently.
that was not my proudest moment, fyi.
i think i was being too loud, or causing some sort of ruckus with my classmate, or something of that sort. either way, the two of us got enough warnings that we were assigned to sit far away from our class during lunchtime. the two of us, in a deserted corner of the cafeteria. you know how alcatraz is all by it's lonesome in the san francisco bay? well, we were basically sitting in alcatraz.
while over there, though, we befriended our cafeteria lady, mrs. carpenter. everyone hated mrs. carpenter. she yelled. she whistled. she was curt. of course, as an adult, if i had to manage a cafeteria filled with elementary school children attempting to feed themselves, i'd probably do the same.
but we befriended her in our quiet little corner. she'd check in with us and tell funny stories and generally seemed like the nicest lady. i just really, really liked her.
in my school, once a year, the kids were asked to write a little thank you to their favorite teacher, administrator, etc. just a little note of appreciation. almost everyone wrote one to their teacher, but in fifth grade i had one of the coolest teachers in school. you know, the young, hip one that always drank diet coke. and i knew she would get a hundred letters. so i wrote mine to mrs. carpenter. and the week we had to hand them in, naturally, i got the flu. so my sister took it upon herself to turn mine in, and she brought it to mrs. carpenter. she came home and told me that it was the only one that mrs. carpenter got. and my sister gave it to her, let her read it, and asked her if she wanted to say anything back and that i was sorry i couldn't give it to her myself.
and she said that mrs. carpenter just looked up at her and started crying.
i'm not telling you this story to give myself a pat on the back. rather, i'm telling it to you to serve as a reminder for me. that moment has stayed with me for so long. how under appreciated and disliked people can feel every day. and how they may be totally different people if you got to know them. or took a moment to appreciate them.
i remember at my first job in nyc, how anxious and worn out and disregarded i felt all the time. and i had friends and family who were incredibly kind - encouraging me, supporting me, letting me lean on them. but when a co-worker come up to me, someone i barely knew, and asked me if was ok, i let it all hang out. and my co-worker sat there - listening to me, encouraging me, telling me i was going to be ok.
you see, our friends and family are there to do all of those things. and i'm not saying it's easy for them to support us and listen to us - but they're biased. there's nothing wrong with bias, and there's certainly nothing wrong with feeling like you'll be ok because you have so much support, but for some reason, when it comes from someone with nothing to gain and no obligation - what can i say. you just really feel it. you say to yourself "really? you think about me? really?" you finally, and most importantly, start believing in yourself again.
so that's to serve as my reminder - after giving that feeling to someone and years later receiving it in kind - that sometimes people need our encouragement and our support. it may be a random person at your office, or place of worship, or apartment building. and you know them just enough to say they look good in their new outfit, or they seem like they've really been working hard, or ask them if they're doing ok. at least in nyc, i feel like we keep to ourselves so much. we look straight ahead and we listen to our ipods and we think our co-workers are doing just fine. but you know, every now and then, a random appreciation could mean the world to someone. if there's a reason to break the silence, that should top your list.

24 comments:

  1. Beautiful post, Colleen. I love that story about Mrs. Carpenter. I'm sure you made her entire year with that thought of appreciation. I'm so guilty of being one of those people who don't pay any mind to anyone else (mostly because of shynesss), but this reminds me to, once in a while, break out of my comfort zone and just say a simple, "Hi" and "How are you?". And really mean it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. thank you Jillian. I feel the same way - getting out of my comfort zone for someone else's benefit.

    ReplyDelete
  3. That's a wonderful story and one that I'm glad you shared. It's important to be kind, no matter when, where and how. We always joked at work that it was so funny how far a simple "thank you" and sign of appreciation would have gotten us and it was so true. You write wonderfully so thank YOU for this lovely reminder. It's one of my favourite blog posts this month

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thank you! we're just trading thank yous back and forth all day. but it's true, particularly at work or even with your family, how far those words can go.

      Delete
  4. I love this story. You noticing and caring about Mrs. Carpenter does not surpise me about you in the slightest.

    What does surprise me (and make me want to meet you even more!) is that you were exiled to a far away table. Lets grab a beer together. Good stories would surely follow.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. haha indeed! I can be a little rabble rouser every now and then.

      Delete
  5. This is awesome! Not only do I love the picture, but the story about Mrs. Carpenter is really sweet.

    I'm going to try to make a concerted effort to reach out to people on a more regular basis!

    xx

    Erin @ http://www.truffles-ruffles.com/

    ReplyDelete
  6. I don't know if it's the PMS talking or too many hard days teaching, but this made me all teary. I like to whine about how thankless teaching can be, but compared to the other staff of a school we are like royalty. What a wonderful world it would be if we thanked everyone and told them what we really thought instead of keeping all those happy thoughts to ourselves!

    So I'll take this opportunity to say I always appreciate your posts and thoughtful comments and emails! One day I WILL come to NY and tell you in person. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. you are too kind!!! I really hope we meet up one day - NYC or perhaps Virginia!!!

      Delete
  7. This post kinda touched my heart. My mom was a lunch lady for most of my life and it's sweet to know that not all kids are unappreciative of how hard EVERYONE at a school works for them, not just the teachers. And you make a good point, too, about showing that appreciation. I think it mostly comes down to respect - if we treat everyone with a little respect, even strangers, it can make a huge difference in their life and ours.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. oh how cool! I hope you pass onto your mom that someone, somewhere has a soft spot for lunch ladies! and it's true - just a little respect goes a long way (and not taking your day out on others, especially the easy targets. I see it all the time in NYC and it makes me so mad and sad).

      Delete
  8. Love this reminder! It is so important to make others feel appreciated, because we all know how much we each need it. You're such a great writer, Colleen!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks lady! it's true, we all need it. not every day and from everyone but when people take the time to do it when you need it, it makes a world of difference.

      Delete
  9. Such a great reminder Colleen! Everyone deserves to feel valued and appreciated. Working in HR I see that time and time again, it makes such a difference! xoxo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. oh gosh I've bet you seen it all! such an important thing to remember at work.

      Delete
  10. I'm a major softy but your story had me in tears! It's such a good reminder that the tiniest bit of kindness can go so far to make someone's day. It's so easy that its baffling we don't do it more often! I agree that NYC if often so guarded and strangers aren't always the warmest.

    (I'm sorry to take up your comment space with a story but feel compelled to share!) I was walking down the sidewalk in Brooklyn from the grocery store the other evening and passed a guy on his way home or to a party with several pizza boxes. He passed a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk (who I had practically crossed the street to avoid) and offered him a slice. Obviously 1 out of 24 slices would mean nothing to the party he was going to but it meant the world to that man who was down on his luck. Such a simple offer seemed so profound. Be generous with whatever you've got to offer! Thanks so much for your story!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. oh thank you - and thank you for sharing! seeing random acts of kindness can be so inspiring - it's like that bank commercial where one person sees it and passes the act of kindness along later in their day. rarely do we see someone commit an evil act or do something mean and feel as inspired to do the same - it's one trait i enjoy about humanity.

      Delete
  11. Oh gosh, you always write these posts that make me tear up Colleen! Thank you so much for this story, it made my day! I am one of those people who plug in my ipod and keep my head down so I definitely needed this reminder. It's amazing that it's the simple things in life like saying "thank you" and "how are you?" that can make all the difference to someone's day. 'm sure Mrs Carpenter probably cherished that letter you wrote. Incidently, do you know what ever happened to Mrs Carpenter?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Colleen! I want to hug your little girl self for sending that note to Mrs. Carpenter. And for the reminder to us all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can always hug my big girl self, too.

      Delete
  13. Colleen, first of all I have to tell you I bought the boots. I love them so much. They kick ass.

    Secondly, you are a fantastic writer. You can really tell a story well. I remember when you wrote about being shipwrecked, and I just got sucked right in. This story had such an important message to it. It made me think.

    *Erin

    ReplyDelete
  14. Oh my goodness. This is the best story I've read on a blog in a while. That is such a sweet story! Thank you for sharing and it served as a wonderful reminder.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...