When I was 12, they called me Queen of the Sixth Grade.
I was confident, outspoken, and forgiving at school. I gave help to those who needed it and I distinctly remember pulling seats to the lunch table to include others who didn’t fit. I remember seeing kids whine or act out. Rather than getting irritated, I remember thinking, “they’re just insecure and they need my help.” I had patience for days and I felt great about myself.
In my old age, I’ve lost my crown. When people act out, I get angry and frustrated. I get disappointed. I take people’s actions personally. Consequently, I don’t feel as great because I’m busy being angry.
I wonder if part of this behavior is a result of losing my childhood naiveté. Kids are selfless and emotionally vulnerable because they don’t understand that the world is unfair. They don’t think they have anything to lose because they’re never lost anything. As an adult, you have plenty to lose-money, reputation, time-lots of things.
I remember volunteering as a tutor for the Minneapolis Public Schools during the summer. A short, round blonde girl named Valerie walked up to me. She had drawn two unicorns on a colored piece of construction paper.
“This is the BEST drawing I’ve EVER done!” Valerie exclaimed.
“Wow Valerie! That’s amazing!” I replied. I was so excited for her. She had just drawn the best drawing in her whole life and to me, that was a huge deal.
“Here, you can have it.” Valerie said, reaching out to give me her masterpiece.
I’ve told this story many times because I was so touched by her gesture. It really made me rethink my approach to life. Why can’t I give away things that are precious to me with so much ease? Why can’t I value someone else’s happiness over mine?
I want to be more like Valerie and I want to be more like I was as Queen of the Sixth Grade. Every time I get upset, angry, or frustrated with someone, I don’t want to get angry. I want to get compassionate. I want to see my anger as a symptom of someone else’s pain or struggling. I want to be selfless enough to set aside my emotions, help someone else feel better, or at least see from their perspective. Ultimately, I think it’ll make the world a better place.