Fine Tuning

Kristine Grant

My years working with children of all ages as a School Psychologist left me with some very precious memories and encounters.   When my daughter entered middle school, unfortunately, she was terribly bullied mostly by “mean girls”.  My heart went out to her since she truly suffered.  As a result, I developed a keen interest in relational aggression and created the Be Friendship Focused or BFF program along with the A-Z Power Cards, (an inspirational, character-building card deck with a provocative conversational topic associated with each word, and each card was decorated by paintings created my daughter and me).   Not only did I share my anti-bullying/self-empowerment program message at numerous national, statewide, and local conferences; but I began leading BFF Groups at the various schools I was assigned to.

I contend that one of the most valuable character traits that we can pass on to our kids happens when they witness or receive random acts of kindness.  When a child experiences a thoughtful word or gesture with no agenda attached only a genuine sense of respect, compassion, or care … that leaves an indelible imprint which can certainly inspire more “feel good” moments for all concerned.  Therefore, when kids witness adults who demonstrate a spirit of true generosity, particularly as a result of a child’s actual efforts, talents, or willingness to share, it can positively influence the child’s sense of gratitude and fuels an improved overall positive self-regard. 

There can be a circular momentum that builds as a result of witnessing true kindness which usually motivates our kids to creatively come up with their own thoughtful, considerate gestures or behaviors.  A child’s focus can shift from feeling disempowered or aggressively seeking power, (which are hallmarks of bullying), to be replaced by a better, if not dramatic urge for experiencing a more wholesome and kinder perspective.  You see, children are naturally quite ego-centric or self-conscious. From where they stand, everything tends to be about them.  However when they learn to place their attention upon helping someone else, then they experience the gift of knowing empathy, compassion, and simple selfless giving.  This then reflects positively for honing much better social skills. While there is an art to “giving”, there is also the art of “receiving”.  Both attributes are certainly worth building.

One day, I met with four 10-year-old boys to begin our first Be Friendship Focused group session. These boys were selected to participate in this group process in order to upgrade their socialization skills.  Each of these youngsters was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, which is a mild neurological disorder on the Autism Spectrum.  To one degree or another, they each were considered to be awkward or socially challenged; staff and students alike were often annoyed by what they perceived as weird or strange habits or behaviors. Sadly, they were often rejected for no other reason than being demonstrably different from their peers.

I began our first session with a simple inquiry, which experience had taught me encourages children to share what they like about themselves: “Why would anyone want to be your friend?”

Jeffrey, a pudgy youngster with thick glasses responded, “Well, because I can play the piano."

The boy sitting next to him, thin and missing a front tooth remarked, “And, I can play the flute!”

The student next to him chimed in, “Oh, I play the guitar.”

And, surprisingly, the last student gleefully spouted out, “Oh yeah?  I have a drum set at home, and I will be a professional drummer when I grow up!”

I was certainly impressed by their shared interest for playing music and quite naturally suggested they create their own band. At that instant, Jeffrey enthusiastically yelled out, “I can also sing!” and immediately burst into a Bruno Mars' song When I was your man.  Without any hesitation the other three boys sang along with an impromptu, and, I might add, delightful harmony.   It was wonderful!  A moment that I will never forget.   I applauded their innovative, creative, and quite amazing song recital; that’s when Jeffrey piped in, "Ms. Grant, meet me in the Multi-Purpose Room at 2:37 today!"  (School let out at 2:35).

“Why?  What for?”

“Please, just be there!”

And so it was.  I entered the Multi-Purpose Room at the appointed time.   Suddenly, the door at the back of the room burst open and Jeffrey quickly strode toward the stage, where a grand piano stood covered in cloth.  He briskly removed the skirt from the piano, immediately sat down, and without even a greeting, just began playing beautiful classical music.  He did not rely on any sheet music to follow. I was honored by this young boy’s natural, and brilliant performance.  After about 15 minutes of this delightful concert, Jeffrey stopped playing, stood up, bowed his head and just said “Thank you, Ms. Grant,” before covering the piano with the cloth and running out the door.

It was days like these … when I was able to bear witness to the universal truth that each of us yearns to feel appreciated, acknowledged, to share what is in our heart, and ultimately desire to somehow connect, that I take the greatest pleasure in my work.  Through his fearless artistry for music and song, Jeffrey shared his talent with me and influenced the BFF group to also connect under the same platform.  I was so impressed with his performance that I immediately headed over to the principal’s office.  The school principal, Mr. Green, was well liked and respected and had a genuine interest in helping his students succeed.  After I recounted the story of the initial BFF group session and how each member shared a common interest in music, I told Mr. Green about the amazing private concert I had just witnessed in the Multi-Purpose Room.  As I shared this, Mr. Green sat there thoughtfully behind his desk and stroked his chin.  Then he asked, “Was Jeffrey really that good?”

“Oh yes!”

Then, after a long pause, Mr. Green said, “Hmmm … I know who that boy is.  In fact, I have met with his mother a few times… He was really that good?" he repeated. I nodded affirmatively. I could see him fine-tuning his thoughts. "They are quite poor.  His mother is a single mom.  I know she really struggles. … Okay, I am going to do it!”

"Do what?" I was quite puzzled by his remarks.  It was then that he emphatically announced that he was going to give Jeffrey his own piano!  In fact, he made plans to have it delivered to Jeffrey’s home the following weekend.

This most generous gift prompted only by hearing about the boy playing piano and singing, truly made my day!  I was told later that both Jeffrey and his mother were exceedingly pleased.  Needless to say, Jeffrey was shouting and singing with glee.


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