What will you do with your shovel?
My time at my school is a bookend these days; on Mondays and Fridays I am the resident counseling practicum student. In-School Success is no longer my domain and although my work there is hardly finished, I'm enjoying a new role. This new role has helped considerably—I get to still be at JMS two days a week which eases my withdrawal symptoms and I can find and honor success when I'm there.
Oh boy was she agitated! Some drama was brewing and tempers were rising and people were being fake and lying and words were getting escalated. Lunch in the seventh grade is such a journey. Although it lasts only thirty minutes, a lot of drama can get accomplished. Why, a person could get two seasons of reality TV material from just one lunch period.
Our principal asks me to see what's happening, and to escort the student out of the lunchroom. I approach the student and just say, “Hey, let's step out a second; let's get some air.” Brilliant thing, she didn't even need to be asked even once, for that matter. I hadn't even gotten he words out and she was escorting herself out of the lunchroom.
Shakespeare says, “All the world's a stage…” I say, “The main hallway is also your personal stage…”
She is fuming and frothing and “ohhhh I can't STAND her!”
“Hey lady-girl,” I call all the gals here that—they are still girls, but want and need so badly to be ladies. “Hey lady-girl, if you can just hold out till we get to a closed door you can have some quiet private space and right now your integrity will remain intact.”
I didn't want to squelch her feelings, but I also wanted to support her in not blasting off into a verbal space shuttle which might get her into a place where she didn't need to be. She pipes down but thank goodness we were only yards form privacy. Her face was swelling and it seemed as though her soul might have been ready to explode. Steam rose from her eyes. Yes, this was a lady-girl showing some crazy and amazing self-control.
She plops down on the little couch in the office I use. She waits patiently for me to shut the door. I expected a spew like that of a truck driver. I expected a lot of “too strong, too strong.” I did not get what I expected.
“Oooooh, she makes me so MAD—that—that—bih, uh, PERSON! Oooooh, I just want to slah—uh—I mean, I just want to—oh, uh, OH I am so MAD at her! She makes me SOOOO MAD!!!
Today was the day when my listening and minimal encouragers were gone out the window. I did not need to ask her how she felt. I did not need to ask her any clarification questions. I was glad we were not taping this for my class because, well, today worlds collided. Today I used the Frankerian Sinatrian theoretical approach. Yep, that's right. I did it “My Way.”
“I see you are so angry right now and yet I also see what maybe you can't. You have SO much self control! You know that you trust me that you could have said anything you wanted, yet you rephrased what you said. Not only does that show maturity AND respect, but it makes your integrity SHINE! SHINE SHINE SHINE!
She is staring at me. Her eyes are as open as the Grand Canyon, soul as deep, too. Much calmer, she says, “But she is always sayin' stuff about me. And if she comes up to me…I'll POP!”
I ask about how her day plays out with this person. As luck would have it, they ride the same bus. We come up with a plan that she will sit at the front of the bus and that way, this girl has to come to her to cause a fuss. She informs me though, if the girl hits her, she will fight back.
“Let's play this out. You are on the dance team, right? Uhh-huhh. Sheepishly.
“Is she on the dance team?” Nuhh-uhh. Sheepishly.
“Ok, so tell me what happens if you get into a fight.”
She tells me that she knows she will be suspended and get kicked off the dance team. Then I ask her an important question. Ok, I asked her two important questions.
“What do you love more…do you love being on the dance team, or do you love your dislike for this girl?”
Uh-oh, she may be on to me.
“Dance. Team. More.”
I ask is it worth it to lose the dance team over this?
I ask the next question. “Who is more important here—right here, right now—you—or her?”
“I am!” Duh, Mrs. T…
“And do you think she might say the same thing, that SHE is more important if I asked her the same thing?”
Well. Yes. I guess. So.
She wanted a good argument; she wanted some validation as to why she could be justified in pursuing this discord. “Yeah, but if she comes up on me sayin' all her lies…”
OK, welcome to metaphor time!
I say, “Here's my thought. When you are born, they give you a shovel. How you use your shovel is up to you. You can use it to carve out a path; you can use it to help others who are stuck. Some choose to do this. Others choose to dig a hole for themselves and in doing so, fling dirt on others. But that is OK; you may have to stop work on your path to clear off their dirt. But meanwhile, that other person has flung so much on you, that they have actually dug themselves into a hole that is really deep. But yanno what? They did it with their shovel. You do what you need to with your shovel. You might want to fling dirt in another person's path. You might want to hit someone with your shovel. But every time you are not working on your path, you 'might' not be using that shovel, that gift, the very best.”
Some might argue that she didn't connect at all to what I was saying. I choose not to believe that.
“What are you gonna do with your shovel?”
“I'm gonna make my own path. But…what if she keeps comin' up to me?”
“She might come up onto you with her stuff. But here's a thought…you are so full of talent, you are mature, you are insightful, and you are intelligent. You make her…come to YOU! How about being SO busy with your own self that she has to run to keep up with you? By being strong you can forge ahead. One of two things will happen. Either she will get tired of chasing your success and she'll give up and get back to her shovel, or she will see how successful you are, want that for herself, and learn from you so she can have her own success. She can't take yours away; she can only find her own.”
As I am delivering the litany of her greatness as I see it, she is shrinking back into
the small red couch.
“You seem to be shrinking away from what I'm saying…can you tell me what that means,” I ask. “Is this hard for you to hear?”
One nod. Two huge welling tears.
“Why is it so hard for you to hear?”
“Because no one tells me that.”
“Well it sounds to me like you need a second helping.”
I go on for at least another two minutes about her maturity, her respect to me, her thoughtfulness, her intelligence, what the dance team means to her, and anything else I could think to say.
Everyone has a shovel. What will you say and do with yours?