AD and I think it is important for Sean to learn how to stand up and speak in front of others with confidence so that he might grow into a man who can influence others for good, so that he will have the tools to articulate his ideas, dreams and visions with clarity and confidence. No matter where his life’s journey leads, we think this is a valuable life skill that requires practice more than anything else, and that it’s never too soon to start.
Since Sean was about three, we have had what we call Family Fun Night or what non-geek families would likely term as misery. We start off by reading a Bible story, then we talk about it a little bit and then we take about 15 minutes for each person to draw a picture of what they got out of the story, what they thought the story was about or whatever they found in the story that inspired their artistic spirit in some way. Then each person has to present their work to the others. And by presenting, I mean you are required to stand up in front of the group, identify yourself and then talk about your work. (You should know, being a guest in our home requires you to participate in FFN.) I have gathered these tiny works of art into a collection and it has been fun to look back upon them and see Sean’s artistic and conceptual growth. And I have to say, when I look at his art, I am awed; I have a glimmer of clarity about what Jesus meant when he said that we are to be like little children.
Having said all that, we are always looking for opportunities for Sean to practice speaking in front of groups larger than our small tribe or other friendly folk who might be at our house. So the other day I arranged for him to read Snowmen at Night to the kindergarten class at his former school. We had him practice a few times, coached him to make eye contact and to speak slowly, loudly and with expression. And he did a great job. So if you are looking for a speaker, contact me and I’ll put you in touch with his agent.
As we were driving to take him back to his school, we passed a nursing home. On a whim, AD whipped into the parking lot. “Let’s go in here and see if they need a reader!” he said. “I’ll bet they would love to have a little boy read to them!” So we did and they did and Sean did. The activities director was delighted to see us and gathered up a few of the residents in the dining hall to hear Sean read. He stood in front of the small group, told them his name, the book he was going to read and who wrote it. Then he sat down and began reading the book with joyful expression, taking care to show the pictures. And those who were not borderline comatose were thrilled. And those who were comatose, well, I know they were thrilled in their hearts even though they could not express it.
At one point, one gentleman got into a coughing fit and I became slightly alarmed and concerned that he was going to code out right there in the dining room and what a bummer it would be if on your first public speaking engagement someone DIED. But Sean did not miss a beat and kept reading. When he finished he thanked them for their attention. They clapped and said what a good boy he was and my heart swelled with humility that God would bless stupid old me with such a marvelous little boy. Grace is the only explanation for that.
When we left the nursing home, Sean was enjoying the speaker’s high. He had done well and people liked him and he was energized by the experience. “I’d like to do that again!” he said.
We returned Sean to school about two hours beyond tardy so I checked him into the office. The office lady asked me if he had a doctor’s appointment and for a split second I was tempted to lie and say yes so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the impending disapproval, but Sean was standing right there, so I told her the truth: He had a speaking engagement. “Well, you know he’ll be marked tardy, don’t you?” she said. And I said, “Oh. I see. You think I care.” No I didn’t say that because how snotty would that be? No, I said I did not really care about tardy marks, I only care that he is learning and that we felt what he was doing today in the community was important. In retrospect, ‘yes ma’am’ would have been sufficient.
I understand the school’s view that punctual attendance is important, but important things are also learned outside of the classroom.