I have a personal philosophy when it comes to working with kids that I took from a very wise red-head named Anne Shirley. Anne Shirley, as in Anne of Green Gables, for those who don’t know the story, was an orphan who is taken in by two elderly siblings. She consequently shatters their quiet and respectable life with her almost unnatural ability to get into one mess after another. But in the end, her charm and genuinely good nature win over the love of (almost) all who meet her.
After one of her many mishaps, Anne says, “Isn’t it nice to know that tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it yet?”
A few months ago I started hanging up quotes from books around my office and I came across this one. And it’s a cute saying, so I typed it up in an artsy font and hung it on the bulletin board.
The first time I remember putting it into practice, there was a boy who came to a free gym class that I was helping to run. He had a terrible attitude from the start and when it was time for him to leave he refused to move.
I was very firm with him. I said, “Okay, it’s not funny anymore. You need to go.” Nothing. I threatened to tell his teacher. He just laughed. I even raised my voice. He thought it was funny.
When I did finally manage to get him back to his classroom the kids had already told the teacher about what he did. She took him off my hands and told him that he would not be going with his class to free gym again.
The next day I was on hall duty in the morning, greeting the kids as they came in off the bus. He came in off the bus and he looked at me with that same defiant smirk. My first instinct was definitely to great him coldly. After what he put me through, he was probably expecting it. But then that little quote came to mind. Along with the distinct feeling that this kid needed to be surprised.
So I smiled. I called him by name and said, “Good morning!” in a voice that was just as cheery as it was for every other kid. And he smiled at me. Genuinely smiled.
And with that smile, my entire attitude towards this boy changed. In an instant it changed from gritting my teeth and deciding to be nice even when I wasn’t feeling it, to legitimately not feeling angry at all about the events of the day before.
So I decided to make that my kid-philosophy. Every morning I promised myself that I would greet each kid with the same cheery good morning, no matter how terrible the day before had been.
Soon I realized that the rest of us- the ones that are out of elementary school- are no different in our need to have fresh starts. We want someone to smile at us as if that stupid thing we did yesterday doesn’t matter all that much. It also didn’t take long for me to catch myself saying very unforgiving things like “this is just like last time!” and “you always do that.”
It was humbling to realize that I treated these kids better than some of my closest friends. So I made a resolution to give everyone the gift of a fresh start everyday.
You can probably guess the effect. I forget why I was angry. There’s a moment or two of painful tongue-biting, and then I wonder why I even considered bringing it up. And I’ll admit that sometimes I fail at that and bring up old problems to make my point, but making my point never quite feels as good as I think it will.
Making my point may give me a moment of satisfaction, but it’s quickly drained. But a fresh start- that’s something you can work with.
So here’s to fresh starts. Today. And tomorrow. And tomorrow. And tomorrow.
“In your anger do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” (Ephesians 4:26 ESV)