Just Show Up

I welcome our students each morning at the curb outside of our school, usually accompanied by one of our amazing Learning Specialists.  It is often one of my favorite moments of the day, and it offers me the opportunity to connect personally with and welcome students, faculty, and sometimes parents, board members, or visitors to the school.  Once in a while, morning drop-off is more than just a positive ritual, and I’d like to share two particularly inspiring moments from recent mornings.

Those of you familiar with Gesher know that we are extremely proud of our warm, welcoming culture, and also of the fact that our students play an integral role in the creation and maintenance of that friendly, supportive vibe.  One example of this is our 5th grade-Gan (Kindergarten) “Buddy” program, now extended to include the 4th grade-Gan Katan (Junior Kindergarten) buddies as well.  Our students recently met and paired into their buddy relationships, which we find persist beyond these grades and sometimes even beyond our walls.  It is not uncommon for an 8th grader to high five or hug a 3rd grader on Shabbat at synagogue.

One of our Gan students has had some challenging mornings saying goodbye to mom and entering school, even though her days once she gets in to class have been routinely outstanding.  Transitions can be hard, and learning how to walk in to school on your own at five years old can take time.  I often help with this transition the best I can, and the other day I watched the expression on this child’s face transform from consternation bordering on tears to a shy, excited smile when she noticed that her 5th grade buddy was getting off of one of our school vans at the exact same moment that she was exiting her own car.  When her 5th grade buddy saw her and came over to see if she wanted to walk in to school together, our Gan student’s face lit up in a bright smile.  She completely forgot I existed (appropriately), and they walked in together.  I didn’t ask that 5th grader to do that – she saw an opportunity to do an act of Chesed (loving-kindness) and jumped right in.  I could not be prouder of this student, and the community and culture that nurture and support this behavior.

The second moment I need to share took place when a different parent shared with me that he planned to drive 8 hours each way in order to be present for his child’s graduation from US Marine Boot Camp.  He would not be able to speak with that child, give them a hug or handshake, or have any kind of personal interaction.  His plan was that he’d be able to make eye contact as much as possible, and then be able to connect personally in six weeks upon his child’s first leave.  To say that I was struck by this act of being present is putting it mildly.  I am overwhelmed by this parent’s dedication to being there, which I truly believe is way more than half the battle.

In fact, both of these moments are examples of showing up.  Even though our 5th grader didn’t know exactly what to say to her buddy or what she’d need, she intuited that simply stepping in to demonstrate care would be a great step.  Even though our Boot Camp father couldn’t talk to his child, he committed to be physically there and connect anyway.

Who do you think you need to be present for today or tomorrow?  Who in your life would appreciate you simply reaching out physically, verbally, or via social media (my least favorite but still positive!)?  Sometimes all we need to feel cared for is a very basic signal that someone is thinking about us.

This Shabbat, I encourage you to talk to your family members about ways in which it might be possible to be present for one another just a little more, or in ways that are just a little more meaningful.  Ask your children what you do that makes them feel like you are truly plugged in and connecting with them, and let them know what actions they can take to be present for you, too!

Shabbat Shalom,

Dan