When I woke up on Wednesday morning, I slowly began to realize that I was no longer a YAV and that I had been transported back to school. The theme for LEAP (An acronym that stands for Loving Every Amazing Person or something to that effect), a childrens’ program that is run by the Assembly of God Church in Chinook every Wednesday night, has been the fruits of the spirit ever since the kids got back from Christmas break. The fruit for the evening was kindness. Therefore, the letter K featured prominently in the story about two boys in Ms. Kristiansen’s class. The upstairs auditorium was decorated with a giant banner reading “welcome to kindergarten” along with colorful signs featuring the names of Ms. Kristiansen’s fictitious students. For a half hour, we were all classmates together as we worked to identify pictures of various objects with the same beginning sound. However, we all became dismayed as our speaker from the Alliance Church informed us that some of the boys had been teasing our poor classmate Kurt when he incorrectly identified an image as a “pot” instead of a “kettle.”
Fortunately, she had come prepared with ways that the kids in Chinook could show kindness not only at “King Elementary School” but also at their real school, Meadowlark Elementary. The most obvious principle is that of the golden rule; “treat others the way you would want to be treated.” That message has stuck with me this week as I go about my daily reflections. As I have tried my best to put kindness out into the universe, I have also begun to notice the ways others have treated me with kindess as well, and I have several examples. On Monday, I struck up the courage to go and audition for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I was a little late due to some difficulty finding the room, and as I sat there and watched everyone else stepping up to read their chosen monologues, I grew more and more anxious. It seemed as though everyone had been given their turn but me.
When it seemed as though the last person had gone, and before I had the chance to speak up, the actor who has been cast in the role of Willy Wonka spoke first and said, “wait, there are some people who haven’t even gotten to do a thing yet!” I immediately breathed a small sigh of relief and briefly looked over my lines before heading onstage. After I had finished reading for the part of Violet, Willy Wonka himself thanked me for coming. I haven’t heard any news back about the cast list, but, regardless of what happens, it seems like he would be a neat guy to work with. Just as Willy Wonka is able to forgive Charlie and Grandpa Joe for stealing fizzy lifting drinks once he realizes that Charlie is the only kid who wasn’t willing to sell him out to Slugworth, the kids at both the preschool and at Meadowlark have shown me kindness if I happen to struggle with a task or if I accidentally spill an extra dash of food on their lunch tray. I will admit I’m not the best at arts and crafts, but the preschoolers and I were able to work together to create some pretty cool dragonflies! I have included a picture below.
Speaking of the ways in which kids can show kindness to others, one of the things we talked about at LEAP that night was giving compliments. I have my long day at Meadowlark on Thursday, and one of the many things I get to do in the morning is go out to recess with the kids. I was standing on the blacktop eyeing the jump ropes when I noticed a solitary basketball sitting there in the snow. I have always been a basketball fan. My warm, loving host parents know this, and I am grateful to them for showing me kindness whether it’s baking brownies when I’m going through a tough time or being willing to turn on the Jazz game so I can bring a little touch of Utah into my Montana living room. I started out watching college basketball, specifically Georgia Tech and UNC (Go Heels!), and I was even able to see a Hawks game when I lived in Atlanta. But I started to become a true fan when I saw the smiling faces of all those Utah families on the jumbotron during Jazz games.
Although I’ve been to my fair share of games at Vivint Smart Home Arena over the years, I haven’t actually played in a long time. One of my favorite outdoor activities when I was a little kid, besides swinging in the backyard and making up endless stories in my head as I did so, was shooting hoops in the driveway. My brother Luke and I would play a game that I made up where one of us would shoot the ball and the other would catch it as it came out of the net. If the ball went through the hoop and never touched the ground, we would earn a continent and if we missed or if it hit the pavement we would lose a continent. The goal was to earn all seven, which would sometimes take us hours! I got a lot of practice, and, apparently I never lost my touch, because one of the students in my second grade told my I was “good at shooting hoops,” which was a compliment that made my day. My goal for the upcoming week, and, hopefully my goal for you, reader, is to give as many compliments as you can, because you never know whether or not being noticed could change, or even save, someone’s life.
P.S. As an indication of how many times I watched “Willy Wonka” on the way to Holden Beach as a kid, the quote that comes after “You stole fizzy lifting drinks!” in the origianal film was an actual Jeopardy question in the GOAT tournament and both my brother and I got the answer correct when none of the contestants did! (The answer? “I said Good Day, Sir!”)