This thanksgiving, I spent the holiday with boyfriend’s family. While I’ve known them for many years as the friend, an official holiday with them as the girlfriend was moderately scary.
At the end of the weekend, boyfriend’s mother told me “Becca, Boyfriend is so lucky to have you.” While I replied with a witty remark, it really did touch me. Not only had I not totally failed family thanksgiving but I was welcomed into their community.
Community. What a concept.
I recently watched “Happy,” a documentary about, well, happiness. The conclusions about how humans find happiness were not groundbreaking. Not money, not fame, not even chocolate cake.
I remember vividly when that changed. My best friend in kindergarten, Megan, told me one day that we had to beat up our mutual friend, Karen. When I asked why she explained that Karen wasn’t cool anymore and some cool kids told us we wouldn’t be either if we didn’t beat her up.
I had no idea what cool was but I was desperate to be it.
We didn’t actually beat her up, but I began to doubt people. Not everyone could be my friend. Not everyone was cool.
This was the standard for my youth, whether or not someone was ok would decide whether my group of friends welcomed them like a family or shunned them. Even being shoved out myself a few times didn’t push the idea out of my brain.
Rather than wondering what life could be like if we all created a kind community, I focused on how to find a way back it.
I wish I could say we all grew up and as an adults we are welcome everywhere. But that would be a lie. Adults are cruel too they just mask it better. A fact that has made me incredibly aware of genuinely kind people.
As a substitute teacher, I’m in at least one new school every week which means new rules, new schedules and new coworkers. I’ve experienced a range of behaviors, but the kind ones stick.
Sure, there have been front offices that were rude or ignored me, who left me to wander around the school trying to find my room. But there have also been people who have started by thanking me for coming, showing me to my classroom, making sure I had all the information I needed. It’s amazing what a few extra moments can do.
When I feel welcome in a school, I teach better. When I feel accepted by my peers, coworkers, neighbors, I am better. This can’t just be me.
So stop worrying if someone is cool, or shunned or unwelcome or if you don’t feel like the effort today, and wonder if anyone has introduced themselves yet or if you should go first.
Best of luck.