Ugh. I can’t stop thinking about you and how I missed such a perfect chance to truly benefit someone.
It was my first time coaching your 4th grade class. You appeared to be a sunny, if not confident, young lady.
I was at the end of the lesson on how we have a choice when it comes to listening to the negative voice inside our head—what I referred to as our gremlins.
You were the only girl to challenge me.
You said, “What if you have the same gremlin thought over and over?” I simply replied, “Well you still don’t have to believe it because it’s not necessarily true.” And then you said “Yes, you do.” I asked you why. “Because it is true.” I once again repeated the lesson of the day, “But, you do have a choice whether or not to believe your gremlin voice.”
You could hear a pin drop as all eyes and ears where hyper-focused on our exchange, which had the potential to shift the energy of the entire workshop. That moment could have taken it from good to great! Being the one in charge, I was concerned with time and staying on track. I hadn’t built in wiggle room to improvise too much, and these kids were on a schedule!
Plus, to really delve in with you could have taken us way off course. Possibly into no-man’s land. Or, possibly, into the most profound, life-changing moment in a girl’s life to date.
And I was scared. To get off-track, yes. But also to really know what you were talking about or trying to get at.
Here you were throwing yourself at me, making yourself vulnerable in front of an entire group, mind you, and I dropped it like a hot potato. I was hesitant to put you on the spot and ask more. But I shouldn’t have been, because you were already telling me you wanted to be there!
I was afraid I wouldn’t know what to say in response. But I didn’t have to say anything. I could have just witnessed you and given all of your peers in the room the chance to see you, too. Identify even. And maybe, maybe that alone would have made a difference.
I guess what I’m really wishing is that I’d been more present. Enter stage right my seven-year-old daughter. She accompanies me to most of my engagements, as my “co-coach,” and she’s an expert on being present, like you. However, she wasn’t there because she had a wood working class. I can’t tell you how many times my daughter has responded to a student question with such intuition and insight it made me catch my breath. Kind of like how you made me catch my breath. I wish she were there that day.
Adults aren’t as good at being in the moment. We lose our knack somewhere along the way, and instead find ourselves always trying to keep track of time. Even me, a trained life coach, comes up short.
Can you help us regain our senses? To not run away when someone’s trying to tell us something hard? Not be scared of another’s vulnerability because it makes us vulnerable too? Be brave enough to go off-script, not worry about what to say, keep no concept of time?
I’ve always said that the greatest gift we can give someone is not just our time but also our attention. Because all we all really want, kids and adults, is to see and be seen. Recognize our selves in each other. Know we’re not alone and that we’re enough. I actually think that may be the key to true presence and being in the moment—attention gift-giving.
I wish I’d handled our exchange differently, but I’ll be with you again soon. And when I am, I’m going to say, “Tell me more!”
Thank you for gifting me your attention. And, thank you for coaching me.
Author: Danielle Fuligni McKay
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Anthony Kelly/Flickr