The Best Part of My Day
By José Martinez, 2003 Boettcher Scholar and outgoing Alumni Board member
A few weeks ago, my eldest daughter Penelope shared an interesting story with me on the way home from school. She told me that three students in her first grade class got to the chance to eat lunch with their beloved teacher that day. Naturally, I inquired as to why those specific students were chosen and she excitedly replied, ‘because it was their birthday in November, Dad! When a kid has their birthday in that month, they get to eat lunch with the teacher.’ I nodded in approval, but before I could say anything else, Penelope then added to the story. She told me that one of the three students chose not to eat lunch with the teacher…
Now, for those that don’t know, there are few things in life that are cooler or more desired (for a first grader, at least) than the opportunity to eat lunch with your teacher. With that idea as cannon, I was immediately intrigued as to why this student would elect to opt out. Penelope explained to me that in their classroom, each student has a table partner that they sit next to. She also explained that two of the kids chosen were table-mates, but the third chosen student didn’t want her table-mate to be left out and alone at lunch, so she chose to eat lunch with them in the cafeteria instead.
We only had a few more blocks left to get home at that point, and all I could do was smile and think, “man, kids are awesome.”
One of the best parts of parenthood is the opportunity to shape the world in a way that makes it better. Every day, we as a society have the opportunity to teach our children and to help them frame the world. In our own household, my wife and I have made a concerted effort to work with our own young daughters on working hard and being kind. When we read books and watch movies with the girls, we try to highlight characters who show resilience or those who do good for others. When we talk about our daily lives and what we see around us, we often talk about ‘filling other people’s bucket’s’ and trying our best, even when things are hard. What made me so happy to hear Penelope explain the lunch story was that this whole experience was totally logical and not at all surprising in her world; she was just telling me what happened at school because that’s just what we do everyday on the ride home.
You see, the reason why my wife and I focus so strongly on kindness and work ethic with our kids is because we believe these are the key tenets of growth and leadership. Our hope is that one day, our girls will grow up and be empowered to do anything and everything they want, but we want them to do it with kindness. We want them to pursue their dreams, but we also want them to make the world a better place.
Perhaps ironically, my wife and I found out we were pregnant with Penelope just before I had the pleasure of being invited to be part of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board, 7 years ago. Much like Penelope has experienced and learned about these leadership tenets from us, my own experience working for and with the Board has continually taught and reinforced these same beliefs for me.
Being a part of the Alumni Board has easily been one of the most fun and rewarding things I have ever done. While the Boettcher brand has always been synonymous with greatness, that’s not really the reason why I was so eager to serve or why the experience has been so incredible. The real draw has actually been the dedication and kindness of everyone involved. Much like my daughter’s first grade class and my own attempt at parenting, we all seek out the good in others and we are eager to support those around us, no matter the cost. Simply put, this group of people is one of the best arguments I can make about why I am optimistic and hopeful for the future. And, for all those on the Board, I want to express how deeply grateful and honored I am to have had the pleasure to serve alongside you.
For the reader of this post, however, I want to leave you with just one piece of advice. Comedian Conan O’Brien, in his farewell speech from his show, told his audience, “work hard and be kind; amazing things will happen.” Though from an unconventional source, I truly believe there is magic in this idea. As I approach my own farewell of sorts, I simply want to encourage you to heed this advice. It’s not always easy to do and sometimes it seems like a counterintuitive response to the situation at hand, but I promise you that most of the time it will be exactly what you need.
And just like that, I must bid you adieu. As luck would have it, it’s time for me to go pick up Penelope from school and see what other life lessons await.