These past few years have been WILD. No matter what way you slice it, it feels like there has been one crazy thing after another. Sometimes, it seems kindness can be hard to find.
No – I don’t mean the
toxic positivity kind of kindness. The “hustle mode” “team no sleep” “you got this, girl” “throw your hair in a bun and #handleit” kind of crap 👏🏼doesn’t 👏🏼actually 👏🏼help when there’s a precious freshman in the bathroom crying during her lunch period.
One year, my yearbook editors asked me if it was okay to eat in my room during lunch. Of course, I said yes. I was a new teacher and didn’t realize that when they asked – they meant ALL YEAR. And I didn’t realize how badly I would actually need the 14 minutes of silence. But – I #livedandlearned, and we made it fun. We dubbed it Lunch Bunch, and even formalized our structure. Every Friday, we would have a potluck. First was pasta (because it’s easy to potluck), then tacos, then big salads. Some weeks were just a hodgepodge of whatever anyone brought. It took some shifting of my perspective to embrace it, but I really believe that Lunch Bunch did a lot for our staff culture that year, so it was more than worth it.
But one day, it hit me just how cool Lunch Bunch ended up being.
My sweet editor came into the classroom after using the restroom and looked distraught. She said “Ms. K, I think there is someone crying in the bathroom. I asked her if she was ok and she didn’t answer. So I asked if she needed anything and she didn’t answer. So I told her we eat lunch in here and she’s welcome to join if she wants.”(paraphrased of course, my memory sucks)
I immediately got up to investigate. I wasn’t even halfway down the hall when she came out of the bathroom, lunch tray in-hand, tears still streaming down her face. I gently approached her and invited her to my room. I could tell she was hesitant, but now she’d been asked twice – so she agreed to come eat with us.
I was so proud of my editor for taking the initiative to say something when she saw someone (a stranger) in distress. Then, to take it one step further and invite her into the Lunch Bunch was so heartwarming. But, once she agreed to come in, I had the feeling I would have to lead the delicate conversation to make it less awkward and more comfy. I was wrong.
My kids moved over closer to her. Asked her name. Drove the conversation with such love and grace and maturity that I think some adults would struggle with. They didn’t pry about why she was upset. They shared snacks. Told her all about the yearbook and the staff and what we do in this magical more-than-just-Lunch-Bunch room. Took her on a tour of the darkroom. She started to open up (slowly), and tell us a little about herself. She just moved to the school and didn’t have any friends yet. My little extroverts scooped her right up and said “well you have SEVEN now!!” She even laughed (!!) before lunch was over.
I told her she is welcome to come have lunch with us anytime.
The next day – she came back. Refreshed and happier.
The day after that, she came back. Relaxed and smiling.
Every day after that – she was part of the Lunch Bunch.
I followed up the day after the first day with my editor who found her, because I wanted to commend her for being brave enough to speak up and friendly enough to invite her. She said that she knew what it feels like to be sad at school and it sucks… but she always felt safe to cry in the journalism room.
The kindness my editor extended to our new friend was an overflow of the culture that Lunch Bunch created. Everyday, advisers created safe spaces for students to just exist. A soft place to land on a hard day. A potluck pasta feast on an ordinary Friday. I random group of journalism weirdos to each lunch with at your new school.
Thank you for going out of your way to demonstrate kindness to your students. They may not realize it (heck, YOU may not realize it) – but someday you’ll see it multiply. And the world needs more of that.