I taught a class tonight and made it home just in time for bedtime. I’d been looking forward to stories – and expected my daughters to be on their way up to bed. But what I found instead was that Ani was already in bed and tucked in. She wasn’t feeling super well and had retired early.
Without packing her lunch. Which meant it was going to be my job.
But I found out that the lunch wasn’t made because I caught Teagan, her younger sister, already in the process of packing two lunches. Without any prompting or complaining, she was helping out. Just to be nice.
That, though, wasn’t what floored me. I watched Teagan grab a Sharpie and begin to mark up the sandwich bag she had just filled full of sliced peppers, a staple vegetable in our school lunches. Immediately, I told her that she needed to show her mother what she had done.
She did this1:
I can’t tell you how proud I was. But I can tell you that I never told her, explicitly, that the way you help someone feel better is to write them a note. That was something we modeled for her by slipping notes her way from time to time.
You can’t teach love, so much, by way of demanding it or requiring it or lecturing on its finer points. You’ve got to model it. You’ve got to live it, or at least try to, and let the lesson come through a little bit on its own, as we trust that our children, or students, or colleagues, pay attention.
Tonight’s scribbled notes2 were a fine reminder that, even when an example isn’t perfect, plenty of times the message still gets across.
And I wonder where and how I could be modeling love better, myself.3
- It’s maybe a bit hard to read – but it says “I love yuo (sic) Ani! (Heart) Teagan”. [↩]
- She wrote a similar message on the pizza in another sandwich bag, too. [↩]
- Later, Teagan chose Peter Reynolds’ The Dot as her story for the night. Love notes to sisters and that book were the one-two punch of love for me tonight. If you haven’t read that book, oh, you really should. [↩]