Walking home the first day of school, Becket stopped and slumped on the edge of the curb. “I don’t like it here.”
*Oh, that sound you just heard like thunder ripping through the mountains during a summer storm? Yeah, that was my heart breaking.*
As is my wont, I probed for more info. “Lunchtime is horrible!” This was not what I was expecting to hear, as lunch has always been one of the highlights of his day.
“There are so many people, but I am all alone.” After asking a few veteran moms for the down-low, I discovered that all the kids pile into the large echo-y auditorium and are allowed to sit with whomever they choose.
Before at lunch, his small class sat round a table in their room together and chatted about Pokemon and ice cream flavors, then excused themselves to go climb a tree in the forest playground outside the door. I can see him standing wide-eyed in the doorway of this new lunchroom shrill with shrieks and squeals, as his classmates jostle past him to meet up with their besties from other classrooms. The tables fill and he ends up sitting utterly alone.
For the first time ever, his lunch came home unfinished.
When it comes to meeting new people, Becket is exactly like me; outwardly confident / paralyzingly shy at the core.
Two days later I couldn’t take it anymore. I asked in the office to have someone look out for him (As I am not allowed to join my son for lunch at school. Not. Allowed. But that is another story.) They were very kind and promised to assign him buddies for a few days and make things better. And things did get a bit better. A shrug, “A girl asked me to sit with her today. It was ok.”
Then yesterday it happened. The storm broke. A beaming smile, “Mama! Mama! Gideon and Daniel ASKED ME to sit with them at lunch today!!!” (loosely translated he just won the Mini-Cooper in the Cherry Festival raffle.) His lunchbox came home empty. Two seven year-old boys will never know the power they had to light up my son’s life.
You HAVE that power. Do you know it?
Professionally: If you have a business, organization or group that occasionally has newcomers – Plan for it. Make it a serious part of your system to assign a “lunchroom buddy” to each new person, and make them feel like a VIP rather than a stranger. That one simple step can change the entire future of your relationship. What an enormous difference that small act of kindness would have made to Becket. And to me.
Personally: The next time you are in a large group situation where you feel uncomfortable, insecure, and shy (although no one is paying me one jot of attention, I still feel like I am standing in the middle of the room, naked and covered in day-glo body paint… is it just me?) Look around. Among the cliques of people chatting comfortably and catching up with one another, I’m pretty certain there is someone else who feels exactly like you. Assign YOURSELF “lunchroom buddy.” Walk over to THAT person and say, “Hi, I’m new. Nice lunchbox.”