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
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.) 

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  1. LOLITA on August 28, 2012 at 6:25 am

    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.

  2. AmyAlves on August 29, 2012 at 12:06 am

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

  3. Dontmissyoursunsetlady on August 29, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    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,

  4. cabinart on August 31, 2012 at 5:15 am

    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!)

  5. Cheryl Barker on August 31, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    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.

  6. Pam on August 31, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    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!

  7. Jennifer Dougan on September 3, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    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.


  8. Jennifer Dougan on September 3, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    Thank you, Amy.


  9. Jennifer Dougan on September 3, 2012 at 7:54 pm


    Yes! Savoring each moment. Thank you.


  10. Jennifer Dougan on September 3, 2012 at 7:55 pm


    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. 🙂


  11. Jennifer Dougan on September 3, 2012 at 8:00 pm

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


  12. Jennifer Dougan on September 3, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    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 🙂


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