Monday, August 27, 2012

Start the Year off Right: Building Confident Kids Who See Others

In an eight am to two pm day of orientation for PSEO students (high school students taking free college classes for dual credits), we have been released for a social mingling time. My brown-haired John stretches long arms, arcing tired shoulders, and cracks his knuckles, in the arena where all students are to stay. Parents are making their way out to an atrium for coffee and discussions.

John expresses a very French mentality aloud to me when he says, “In my classes I plan on really getting to know the kids and look forward to it, but this time here…” he trails off and I understand. Why build too deep of conversations now with people you may never see again? We grin at each other and I repeat aloud what we have always done. “Well, you can use this time to look for the people who seem to be alone, and reach out to them.” He smiles and stands. 

As I step into the corridor, I hear his confident voice saying, “Hi, what’s your name?” and then his pleased response to a quiet voice, “Oh, Morgan? That’s my sister’s name!” He fades out of hearing as I close in with a throng of moms and dads heading for the styrofoam cups of coffee. Several minutes later, cradling a bulk-brewed cup of java, I scan the crowd, and take turns walking up to some women. “Hi…” 

The best advice I ever received about people – in addition to the truth that Jesus made them wonderfully and loves them—is the concept that everyone feels shy, nervous or insecure at times. 

I didn’t learn that until my first year of college. A tall blonde waitress at the Italian restaurant I worked at oozed confidence. All the male workers noticed her, and I shyly wondered if my new boyfriend at the time would succumb to her charms as well. God nudged me to reach out to her on several occasions, but I was sure I had misheard him. She didn’t look as if she needed any new friends. One afternoon shift, though, I found her crying in a back room. We talked for a while and hugged, and I realized how wrong I had been. Everyone needs kind smiles, a friendly hello, and sincerity, no matter how confident, successful, put-together or popular they look. Everyone needs to know that they have value.

So, the next time you are feeling shy… inhale, remember what God says about your value and their value, and then walk up to them, smiling. “Hi…” 

To build confident compassionate kids, whisper to them the truths of who God says they are. Help them see others in that same way. Let them in on the secret that everyone –no matter how confident they appear—is insecure at times about something. Then unleash them to love others with our Abba’s love.  

...I love talking with you. What advice would you pass on to new students this year? Or, what do you wish you had known about people earlier? (To join the discussion from email, click here.) 


LOLITA said...

So much truth in here, Jen.

We can never tell what's inside those who seem outgoing. Or those who look shy and timid, like me at times.

Glad to be able to relate and welcome others in God's truths.

Blessings and your guy is well on
the lane of being a Jesus ambassador.

AmyAlves said...

Excellent story Jennifer! We just don't know, until we ask, or say "hi"... ~ Blessings from Maine tonight sister, Amy! :)

Dontmissyoursunsetlady said...

Enjoy, don't just watch it go by savor the moment no matter how hard that maybe seem once it gone, you cannot relive it,

cabinart said...

Forget about being popular - just be kind to everyone you encounter. That popularity push in public (and probably private) high schools is such a waste of time.

You gave great advice to John, and then you modeled it yourself. (and I bet that coffee was just awful!)

Cheryl Barker said...

Your kids are lucky to have you faithfully instructing them, Jennifer. So important to look beyond the first things we see. I still need that reminder -- especially towards those who may turn me off for some reason.

Pam said...

Such beautiful and rich truths here, Jen. I grew up shy and remember how shocked I was to find out that sometimes people mistake shyness for aloofness. Your story of the waitress reminds me of one of my favorite authors and book series as a young girl - Lenora Mattingly Weber's Beany Malone series. She had a schoolfriend who seemed brash and overly confident but underneath was just lost and longing for friends, unable to really show them. That has always stuck with me too. Beautiful post as always!

Jennifer Dougan said...

Hi Lolita,

You said you look timid and shy... do you happen to feel timid and shy sometimes too? :) Or is that a misleading appearance. ;)

Thank you for these conversations.


Jennifer Dougan said...

Thank you, Amy.


Jennifer Dougan said...


Yes! Savoring each moment. Thank you.


Jennifer Dougan said...


I agree! The popularity game is high school and middle school is so useless and futile. Much better to try to be kind to everyone, regardless.

And, yes, that coffee was just the way you can imagine it. :)


Jennifer Dougan said...

Cheryl, me too. Thanks for joining in the discussion here.


Jennifer Dougan said...

Thank you, Pam. Yes, I think you're right that shyness is sometimes mistaken for confidence or aloofness. Funny, huh?

And vice versa, brashness often hides an insecurity. Thanks for jumping in here. You are always welcome :)