Would you like to be loved

Published 5:57 pm Tuesday, June 11, 2024

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By Jason Stump

Would you like to be loved and supported by an entire community of people?

Not long ago, I was eating a late lunch or early dinner in the Publix seating area on Godwin Boulevard. As I recall, it was Wednesday, which meant $5 sushi. When I am out and alone like that, I enjoy the quiet time. I also tend to observe, especially people.

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More often than not, I find good in this world. Maybe my mind has to reach for it, but I find it I guess because I am actively looking for it. The bad, disturbing, and frustrating stuff will find its way to us all on their own.

This day I didn’t have to reach far to see good. There were two young children and two adults at a table. I assumed one to be their parent or grandparent. The other, whatever role they had, was assisting the little boy with math work. Not just helping him but also helping him learn. As a former middle school math teacher at King’s Fork Middle School, this made my heart happy. Not just the fact that they were together doing this but also the manner in which it was being done. The tutor was encouraging but kept expectations. She assured her student that he absolutely would be able to do this, but of course, it’s hard to learn to do a new thing — sometimes very hard. She was as much a mentor and motivator as an academic tutor. The caregiver, the adult, and the other child remained present but not distracting while the little girl completed her assignments. 

That young prince was polite, diligent and persistent. The whole scene was impressive and good for my heart. Alone, at Publix, there was so much human good being displayed. It was lovely! 

I felt like perhaps I was watching too closely and worried that I’d come off in the wrong way. Then, as I was leaving, I apologized for interrupting and then told the young man how very impressed I was with him. I used to be a math teacher, and I would’ve loved to have him as a student. Their understandably initial shock turned to smiles. I also shared a compliment with the rest of that familial team, also praising his sister for her diligence. 

I know it was a random thing to do, perhaps even risky these days, but it was also the kind of thing that I’ve found so very important in life — important for me, and important to do for others. 

Leadership and inspiration guru Simon Sinek says something: we all need people who will support us, with accountability and unwavering encouragement. Someone to tell us we are on the wrong path and someone to be right beside us when we go down that path and right off the cliff. We all need that. 

Research shows that. In the book Give and Take, Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, cites several studies. In one case, elementary school students are given a test. After the test, the teachers are told of the 20% who are most likely to show the most cognitive growth that year. At the end of the year, another test is given. Amazingly, that 20% turns out to do exactly that. 

Here’s what makes that really, really amazing. The students who teachers believed scored in a way that would indicate their potential for growth were actually chosen at random. The test didn’t actually measure what the teachers were told it did, nor could it have done that. 

What they did find is that the teacher’s belief in these students resulted in: offering those students more positive reinforcement, calling on those students more, and other behaviors that boosted the children’s belief in their own abilities and positive feelings about school. Grant went on to cite similar research supporting the same positive results from those behaviors. 

Wouldn’t you like to know you are loved and supported by an entire community? That people you don’t even know are rooting for you? That they believe you are created for good and have the assumption that you will do your best to do good with your life? Wouldn’t you like that? Even if, for some reason, it doesn’t result in concrete outcomes, at the very least, your well-being, self-esteem and self-respect are improved. 

I’ll make a deal with you, Suffolk. In fact, it’s not even a tit-for-tat thing. I want you to know that God loves you, supports you and is rooting for you, and that you are created for good purposes. So do I. Now, please, do all you can to make sure the children of our city, and beyond, know that also. All of them. You can do this!