Am I nice to come home to?

I did something on purpose this week when my son got in the car. I smiled enthusiastically. Afterward, I realized I have developed a habit over the years that I will share today. Strangely enough, for a woman who loves Jesus like I do, none of them involve a Bible verse. God has used three unrelated comments to make me pay attention to my greetings. Today they appear all strung together for the first time.

Something Toni Morrison said…

I was watching an episode of Oprah in 2000. Toni Morrison was speaking and she said THIS about how we greet children when they enter the room.* I stopped dead in my tracks in the living room and asked myself: When my child walks into the room, does my face light up? How will my children remember my face? I knew in that moment that I was fully capable of being a mom who is all business. I have a good heart, yes, but I can carry a facial expression that looks that I am coaching, teaching and, quite frankly, trying too hard. That’s my natural self.

My daughter came home from elementary school one day and said she had drawn a picture of me. I held my breath. When she handed me a crayon drawing of a lady with curly hair and many earrings (I wear six), I thought, “Yup, that is me.” But what thrilled me most was that the crayon lady staring back at me had her arms outstretched wide to give a hug. Only her smile was wider.

I tacked that picture on my office wall for a long time because it spoke victory to me. I kid you not, what made me work at lighting up my face was this Toni Morrison clip.

Something Maya Angelou said…

My students are fond of repeating one of Maya Angelou’s most famous quotes: I’ve learned that people will never forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

I think about it all the time. How do I make people feel when they are with me or talking to me? I fret about that too since I tend toward being task-oriented. I teach about 325 students each year. In a sense, those people are my job. I have tasks to accomplish. I have material to cover, principles to teach and assessments to administer, but I also aspire to have my students feel valued and respected, because that is what they will remember most. So I call them by name. I greet as many as possible with a smile and a tone of cheer – like I am glad to see them – because I am.  And I also wish them well as they leave.

Something a middle school teacher displayed…

When I was a substitute teacher in the public school system, I was walking through a science lab when I spotted this word art on a teacher’s desk: Be kind to everyone. You may be the nicest part of someone’s day – Anonymous.**

I stopped in my tracks and stared. I read it multiple times, committing it to memory. It has been part of my work e-mail signature for many years now.

After ten years of teaching spring, summer and fall, many students have shared a path with me for a semester. Mixed in with the typical students who come from supportive families, our campus educates students who are homeless or poor, students caring for ailing parents or young siblings, students going home to parents who don’t treat them well, and students working hard at a full-time job for an hourly wage sucked dry by tuition, housing and a diet of Ramen noodles. Individuals from each category have been in my class, both the ones I know about and the ones I don’t. I am certain I have been the kindest part of someone’s day on many, many days. Truth is, some have told me so.

What did I do on purpose?

When my son opened the car door as I picked him up from school, I smiled wide and greeted him with cheer on purpose. Many days I also plant a kiss on his cheek before we pull away from the curb.

Don’t misunderstand. I am a normal lady with normal mommy cranky moments and I make 100 parenting mistakes a day, but I have selected certain times of the day that I try not to ruin.

Now I have a habit.

I try to smile and offer a cheerful words every time a person enters or leaves my car.

The car door is my signal.

I try to do the same when people enter and leave my home.

The front door is my signal.

Last, I try to do the same when someone goes to bed or comes downstairs to breakfast.

The stairs are my signal.

It’s as simple as that. The car door, the front door, and the stairs.

I wish for each of you blog readers today, a face that lights up when you enter the room, a person that makes you feel special, and a person that ends up being the kindest part of your day.

© 2019 by Oaks Ministries. All rights reserved.

Picture Explanation: My backyard is humble, but my blooms are not.

*Transcript portion: It’s interesting to see when a kid walks in the room – your child or anybody else’s child  – does your face light up? That’s what they’re looking for. When my children used to walk in the room when they were little, I looked at them to see if they had buckled their trousers, if their hair was combed or if their socks were up. And so you think your affection and your deep love is on display because you’re caring for them. It’s not. When they see you, they see the critical face. What’s wrong now? But then if you let your…as I tried from then on…to let your face speak what’s in your heart. Because when they walked in the room I was glad to see them. It’s just as small as that, you see. (Oprah) That is what I think is so profound. Because that is how you learn what your value is. Not by what the person is saying to you but what you feel.

**A Wendy Mays quote is similar: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

8 Responses

  1. Yes, I remember when I first met you & you gave me a smile. We then watched the UPS package cars leave and you had tears in your eyes because you were so proud. And I am thinking, will I know this person in 29 years? The rest is history & always with a smile.

  2. You have been an encouragement to me so many times, Laurie! Even when you were carrying burdens of your own, your faith and trust in Jesus along with your smile, encouraged and inspired me! Thank you for your example and for your friendship that is such a blessing!!

    1. This is coming from joy-in-a-bottle herself! I have to throw all of the compliments back to you!

  3. Thanks for the reminder, Laurie. I often ponder the fact that the students I now teach may not remember what I have taught them, but they’ll remember how I have made them feel. I have some pretty vivid memories of my own years in school and how some teachers made me feel. Often it wasn’t too pretty, as I wasn’t the most stellar student. However, most of them underestimated any difficulties I was having as well as my determination to succeed. Now, every time I teach another struggling ESL student, I remember that I might be the only one who is willing to listen, understand, encourage, and believe in them. That thought has the power to change both of us.

    1. You, my beautiful sister, make everyone feel seen and valuable. I can’t imagine how many lives you have touched that God will show you in heaven one day!

  4. A hearty amen to the significance of “hello’s” and “goodbyes.” So important. I’m sure both of us have greeted each other on the phone with a less than cheery tone when we let circumstances get the best of us, but by and large, Laurie, you have modeled the open arms welcome just about each and every time we’ve spoken! Thank you, friend!! The time I remember working the hardest at this was in the early mornings when my sleep had already been interrupted by night time feedings. I was dog tired, but somehow, even though my wee ones couldn’t yet respond, I believed it mattered that I greet them with a warm smile. Thank you for this reminder though. It prompted an apology to my husband, who works out of our home, so I can take his coming and going throughout the day for granted, especially when I’m in the middle of concentrating on something. My tribute is to he and my second daughter, whose enthusiastic hello’s brighten any and everyone’s day!

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Planting and Watering

I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes growth.

1 Corinthians 3:6

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