Sunday, June 15, 2008

Learning through people watching

So today after church the three of us went to Panera for lunch. Yummy. One of my favorite spots. It is a chain, though maintains a cafe appeal and has great food. It is normally very quiet, though full, and can be found filled with coffee drinkers and bread eaters who enjoy the newspaper.

Today was quite the exception in the corner where we sat. To the left of us on a large table was a group of five boys, one dad, and one mom. The mom and dad were not a couple, rather both had their son in the group from my observations. These boys appeared to have some sort of affiliation with a team, which I later gathered was a tennis team. They were in town for a tournament or whatever.

To be brief, let's say that all but one of these boys, all around 12ish, will grow up to become the stereotypical frat boy. Today they were obnoxiously loud. The farted, popped open their chip bag, complained about the cucumbers in the salad, and made fun of each other's interests in music. They annoyed everybody around them who longed for the typical "Panera Bread Atmosphere" but these boys couldn't have cared less.

One particular boy was being grilled by his friends after they saw he had "hollerback" on his iPod. They were relentless, and the hazing he got from his friends seemed to be blind in the eyes of his mother. She was too busy talking with the other father about the expensive private school where she sent her son, and the new mercedes her husband bought her. (Not a judgement, just an observation.)

As I listened to the talk these boys gave to the other, I began to feel sorry for him. The kids in my class would never talk like that to each other in class, and I all of the sudden prayed that they would never talk to each other like that anywhere in life. I wanted to grab this boy and tell his friends they were total punks, but like that would get him anywhere!

Then, the parents' conversation turned to the professional tennis match they had just watched where some big pro I didn't recognize made a huge blunder and lost the match. At this mention by the father, the mother turned to her son (the one being relentlessly teased by his peers) and said, "That is exactly what you did! You ruined the entire match with that same mistake, just like you did last time! You had better not do that again or you will never get a college scholarship!!"

Ahh.Shudder. I think it made me throw up in my mouth a little when I heard that. Now not only did this poor kid have punk friends, but it appeared his mom was one of "THOSE" parents. Those parents I remember from coaching swimming who took all fun away from sports and drained their children from healthy competition so that they burned out and quit long before college. Potential or not, that is no fun for some kids. It wasn't for this kid. Again I felt the desire to swoop in and save him from this entire situation. But of course I didn't. Couldn't.

But I prayed for that boy that maybe today was just an exceptionally bad day. That somewhere else in his life he had a parent/friend/teacher who talked to him appropriately, and who used words that lifted him up and encouraged. And I thought about times when I could have been that mom, either in the classroom, or as a mom myself or spouse. Not realizing how important and effecting my words are. I remember the book Choice Words that we read for professional development, and how applicable that book is to me with every interaction I have with people.

I don't know why today's interaction effected me so much, but it did. So much reflection due to such a little incedent. Maybe I need to re-read that book again. :)

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