My Turn: Grace and empathy among strangers in the schoolyard

For the Monitor
Published: 9/29/2019 6:30:11 AM

It was a warm early fall day. I had my four godchildren for the afternoon. We had just enjoyed lunch, and decided to visit the local New London elementary school playground to burn off some calories.

The godchildren, ages 3 to 12, are home schooled. They have a clear sense of right and wrong. The oldest reminded me that school was still in session, and the playground was likely to be occupied by kids on recess. I said that would be okay, we lived in the area too and paid school taxes.

Sure enough, when we arrived, the playground was filled with school children. I figured the more the merrier. My troupe happily joined the others. In a few minutes they returned, saying some other kids told them the playground was only for school kids. I repeated that it would be okay for them to continue playing.

After a bit, two boys from the school came over and politely told me the same thing. I explained we lived in the area and though my kids were home schooled, they also enjoyed the playground. The boys were fine with this explanation and resumed playing.

A horn sounded, marking a change in class. The kids in the playground scurried back to school, and another class charged out for their turn. Toward the end of this second session, I noticed 12-year-old goddaughter Juliette speaking with two other children from the school. They seemed engaged in a serious conversation.

After a few minutes, Juliette was saying goodbye to each of them, but not before giving them hugs. I thought I saw a few tears amongst the three.

I asked Juliette about the encounter. I figured the three were all good friends. Juliette said she had never met them before. The two kids told her they had not known each other before attending school. They soon found out that each had lost a sibling, and this common experience led to a bond between them.

Juliette is one of the most empathic children I know. In a matter of minutes, the two kids opened up to her with their deepest sorrow, and a brief moment of profound grace occurred.

At times during the afternoon I questioned my insistence that it was okay to bend the rules and join the other kids at the playground. If we hadn’t gone, Juliette’s meeting would not have taken place. Sometimes the most wonderful chance encounters happen when you wander a bit off the normal path.

(Sol Solomon lives in Sutton.)


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