When my daughter and a few of the “older” cousins in our family were very young, I liked to tell each one, “You are my favorite.” For example, to my daughter I would say, “Do you know that you are my favorite daughter?” She would moan, “But Mom, I’m your only daughter!” Well that didn’t matter; she was still my favorite!
To her cousins, when I spent time with each one, I would ask them the same thing: “Do you know that you are my favorite?” Each one enjoyed the attention from Tante Annette, even while knowing that they were all my favorites. In those moments, they knew that they were loved and appreciated, and special to me. It was more like, “You are my favorite when you are with me.”
Yesterday, I was reminded of those “growing up times” when I was at school. I became the holder of a Gold Ticket. That meant that I received the opportunity to award a student who demonstrates that s/he is being a responsible student. It’s one way that we give recognition to our students, and they get the chance to be entered into a drawing to receive a small reward.
Of course, it’s a big responsibility to choose the Gold Ticket recipient. I wanted to be fair and thoughtful. I wondered, “Should I choose the one who is always doing the right thing, or pick someone who is doing the right thing now?” I like to give a boost to someone who doesn’t usually get noticed or who struggles but has been on track. At the same time, someone who is consistent should be recognized. What a dilemma I had, with so many good candidates to choose from and only one ticket!
After weighing it and going back and forth, I chose a deserving student who follows directions, is prepared to learn, and sets a good example. Feeling confident in my selection, I made my announcement to the class. First, I relayed my difficulty in deciding on one person. After all, there were several candidates who were responsible students. Still, I only had one Gold Ticket and could make only one choice.
Next, I described the student’s responsible qualities, explaining why I believed this person should be chosen. I looked around the room and saw twenty-some faces, beaming in the anticipation of being named. I knew one thing for sure in that moment: one student would feel fabulous and the twenty-some would be a little disappointed and wonder, “Why not me?”. I really wanted to give everyone a Gold Ticket.
Finally, I shared the name of my chosen student with the class. With love, her second grade classmates showered her with warm applause. That’s one thing this class knows how to do: show appreciation with applause! M——-, the quiet, responsible girl whose name was announced, looked surprised, but happy. It was an affirming moment.
Afterwards, when she left to go to the Main Office, several students asked me, “Mrs. P., was I one of the students you were thinking of?” One student, who struggles with great difficulty to follow directions and stay on task told me, “I thought for sure you were going to pick me!” You know, it wasn’t as much about “earning” the Gold Ticket as it was that each child wanted to feel that I had noticed him or her, that s/he was special to me.
So what did I tell them? “Yes, I was thinking of you. It was so hard to choose one person. I thought M—— deserved the Gold Ticket this time.” What I said was indeed true – I did think of each one. I thought about how they are all my favorites and how they each matter to me and to each other. Their feelings matter to me. To me they are all winners. I want these little ones to know that.
What I take away from my experiences is this: to make someone feel that they are special and loved while they are in your presence is a true gift. It is a gift you give to another, and it is a gift you give to yourself. By giving of yourself in this way, you open yourself to give and to receive love. You elevate others and you yourself become elevated in the process. It’s simple and easy, and feels so good. That’s really the power of love.