I am really working hard to avoid feeling hungover at the end of this school year. It’s been a long year for me that involved a lot of hurdle jumping, dart dodging, problem solving, traffic directing, and celebrating of milestones in the lives of students and campus partners. Last week we began the end of year celebrations that usher in the four commencement experiences soon to come. At the celebration this week, there were student presenters who inspired me to continue the work of student development and to remain hopeful in the limitless potential of the students served on my campus. The program was designed to celebrate amazing accomplishments of some first generation college students and bring attention to significant contributions made by these students in our campus and local communities. However, I got a little distracted about fifteen minutes into the event by two little people hanging out one section over from me. They were a section over and parallel to me because they were on the same row. One little one stood on his mother’s lap and the other stood in the chair next to mom. For about an hour, these little people cheered enthusiastically and excitedly for each student who took a celebratory stroll across the stage. If I didn’t know better, I would have believed these little ones were related to each of the soon-to-be college graduates.
During the celebration, a number of us watched and laughed as the oldest boy bounced on the seat of his chair and the younger boy bounced on his mother’s lap after the announcer called the name of a graduate. Both boys patted their hands together and their faces beamed with joy and happiness with every name called. I couldn’t tell if there was an audible cheerful expression, but I imagined that they vocalized a “Yay!” or a “Whooo!” every time they clapped. I remembered why I loved little kids and why that time in life was so special and worthy of preservation. After the event, I learned that these children were the sons of a colleague. By the time I was introduced to the little ones, they were running out of steam and growing a bit weary of this adult-like affair. I got it because I sort of felt the same way by 8pm on what had become a twelve hour work day for me.
I told the colleague and his wife what a joy it was to watch the boys throughout the celebration. We also discussed the joys of having young children even when they become disgruntled with grownups who make them stay awake beyond their bedtimes. We laughed about the not-so-joyful experience of little ones waking up in the middle of the night wanting comfort, dryness, or assurance after a bad dream. In rebuttal to their stories of parental anguish due to the late night or early morning cries for attention, I warned them that my greater concern as a parent became not knowing where my children were late at night or during early morning hours once my children got too grown to live at home.
A few days later I thought about the little boys while I was talking a few other colleagues about ego and pride being barriers for collaborative partnerships. It seemed that the little boys demonstrated the possibilities when the environment was free of large egos and senseless pride. I thought about how nice it would be if that selfless part of the little boys that found joy in celebrating others outlived puberty. I thought that it would be nice if folks who saw value in excellent partnership would gladly donate their great ideas and resources to a community without any concern about who got the credit for the ideas or the outcomes. I thought it would cool if we, like the little boys, had boundless energy for uplifting and applauding the successes of others who worked hard to reach the goals they set for themselves. How much more positive and productive would this world be if we spent more time infusing smiles, laughter, and verbal affirmations into our spaces than words and deeds that spew negative vibes and judgment? I don’t really think that kind of energy would be measurable, but who cares about the exactness of happiness. After watching the little boys, I was reminded that I didn’t count the number of bounces, hand claps, or smiles. I just appreciated their laughs, bounces, and smiles. Their gleeful expressions were contagious and in good way and I hoped that they would continue making me smile from the inside out.
Be intentional about your word choices and your actions. Be intentional about avoiding prohibitive language, words that judge or shame, and actions that polarize your community. Be intentional about doing things and saying words that encourage fence mending, community building, and motivational affirmations. When you struggle to find something to make you smile or laugh, think about the little boys you imagined as you read this post. Let that vision move you to clear your head of any nonsense. In that moment, you should find peace and stillness long enough to make a decision to create a positive vibe in your space. Work to create those kind of moments for yourself or others every day this week. I promise I will make that my week long mission too.