Talking to Lower School students is a privilege and a responsibility. Often, I squat to get down on their level. Then I try to be as genuine, interested and respectful as possible in talking to them. I want them to feel my care and concern. So I listen attentively and try to treat them with the dignity I think they deserve. Particularly with our youngest students in Pre-School, Pre-K and Kindergarten, their conversations are so honest and heartfelt that they often teach me something important. That happened today.
My last several weeks have been a whirlwind of activities. First, there was the snow. Then I spent three days last week at the annual North Carolina Association of Independent Schools Heads Conference near Southern Pines. And the last few days have been jam packed. I have felt as if I was in a race car driving at top speed.
Today was no different. I had a luncheon appointment in Belmont, and I was rushing to my truck, parked in the Lower School parking lot next to the playground. Whenever I walk past the playground, the young children greet me. Several spoke and I spoke back. After finishing these brief conversations, I walked fast toward my truck. Then I heard the single, lone voice of a young child calling out "Dr. Rankin!!!" So, with some regret about whether I was going to be late for my meeting, I turned back. There was a Pre-K boy, who I know, coming toward the high chain-link fence that separates the parking lot from the playground. He smiled brightly at me, pressed himself against the fence, and asked, "Dr. Rankin, did you have fun playing in the snow?" His question was so sincere and caring that it stunned me. Here was a beautiful child who, in that moment, more than anything else wanted to know if I had shared the same amazing joy that he had experienced playing in our recent snowfall.
I responded, "Yes, I did. Did you?"
And he said, "Yes, I did too." Then we smiled at each other brightly, and I told him I had to go. He turned back toward a group of his friends and skipped away happy.
When has anyone asked me such an innocent, joyful question, I wondered? When have I connected more directly with another human being in such a pure conversation?
As I walked toward my car, I began to ask myself if I had played enough in the snow recently? Or had I instead been consumed with clearing the driveway and making sure that Gaston Day was ready to re-open. These were definitely priorities. But was there also the opportunity to play? Why hadn't I sledded? Why hadn't I made snow angels? Why hadn't I built a snowman?
Suddenly, I felt my world slowing down to the speed of a small child. I was no longer walking so fast. Instead, I was pondering what it means to balance living in the moment with preparing for the future. My young friend's question had pulled me back into the beautiful present.
Gentle reader, the snow really was beautiful, wasn't it. Did you play in it too?