Katie has a new school crossing guard this year. The guy she had in kindergarten and first grade was nice, but kinda shy. We'd say, "Hi" or "Good morning" or "Good afternoon" and he'd nod and smile but never say much. Which was fine with me. I'm not much of a small talker, especially first thing in the morning. He did offer all the kids candy each Halloween, and on the last day of school, and he did his job of protecting the kiddos from traffic. He just wasn't ever a bundle of joy.
This new crossing guard acts like a kindergarten teacher-in-training. SHE TALKS WITH A FULL SMILE AND eVeRyThInG cOmEs OuT aLl SiNgSoNgy.
I would not want to spend more than five minutes alone with this person, but she's a wonderful elementary school crossing guard.
Hello again today! she says to each child she greets.
Are you ready for another fantastic day?! she says in the morning.
Did you have a great day at school today?! she says in the afternoon.
This afternoon as we approached the cross walk, she beamed at us like we were long lost best friends.
"Well hello there! Did you have a great day at school?" she asked, looking at Katie.
Katie smiled and said, louder than her usual mumble, "Yes! It was a great day. And now it's a beautiful day outside. Enjoy your day!"
I didn't want to put my kid on the spot by staring at her as if she were an alien, but I did wonder what on earth had come over her. She must really like this new crossing guard.
When we got to the end of the cross walk and continued onto the sidewalk toward our block, Katie lowered her voice, leaned into me, and said, "I just filled her bucket."
I looked around to see if the crossing guard was holding a bucket and I just didn't notice it. No bucket.
"What are you talking about?" I asked.
Katie clued me in. They had a counselor come into her classroom today to talk about social skills.
"You see," Katie explained, "Everyone has a bucket. And your bucket gets filled when nice things happen to you."
"I see," I said, wondering where this was going."
"You can fill your own bucket by saying nice things to yourself like I am proud of that picture I drew today in art class or I am a really fast runner! Or other people can fill your bucket too. Other people can tell you nice things like you're a really nice friend or thanks for helping me get up when I fell down on the playground."
I wondered if she was repeating verbatim what the counselor had said to her or if she was using real world examples, because I couldn't imagine she would remember all this word-for-word, but I didn't want to interrupt her obvious enjoyment in telling me what she learned by asking.
"And you can also empty your bucket. You can empty it yourself by saying mean things to yourself like I'm so stupid or I'm the slowest runner in the class. Or someone else can empty your bucket. Like bullies. Bullies empty your bucket when they bully you!"
She finally caught a breath long enough for me to ask a question. "So what's a bully?"
"A bully is someone whose bucket is so empty they try to empty other people's buckets by saying mean things to them like calling them bad names or shoving them around and being mean," Katie explained.
"Wow, that is so true. That is so cool you guys have a counselor that comes to your class and teaches you these things. It took me years to understand what you're learning now. So now you're going to go around trying to fill people's buckets? Like that crossing guard?" I asked, squeezing her hand a little tighter.
"Yep. I filled her bucket by being polite to her. That's another way you can fill someone's bucket if you don't know them very well. By saying thank you and please and it's so pretty outside and enjoy your day. You can say that kind of stuff to anyone to fill their bucket."
I wanted to argue that sometimes when I'm in a grumpy mood it actually makes me feel more irritated when someone offers me such fake pleasantries, but I didn't want to poke a hole in my sweet little seven-year-old's bucket quite yet. She has middle school to figure that out.
"Well thank you for sharing that with me," I smiled.
"See, you just filled my bucket by saying thank you!" Katie let go of my hand and skipped ahead a bit. I didn't try to catch up. I wanted to see her, all on her own, courageously pushing forward through life.