“Put Her Yardstick on My Tab”

By Dr. Elinor Scully, Head of The Langley School

On Saturday, I was in an ACE Hardware store purchasing an old-fashioned yardstick. I decided that I needed this yardstick because I was preparing to hang some curtains (rods, brackets, rings, panels, etc.) completely on my own. My drill was charged, my supplies marshaled, my spirits high. At the checkout line, the guy ahead of me said to the cashier, “Put her yardstick on my tab.” I protested that his gesture was unnecessary and far too generous, but he looked me in the eye and said, “I try to do one random act of kindness every single day. Today, you’re it.” 

Several hours later, during a particularly unfortunate bit of drilling and a seemingly failed curtain installation, I summoned my ACE Hardware friend’s warm-heartedness and sense of generosity and went for a walk. I needed to step away from the project, as I was certain things were headed in the wrong direction. On my brief stroll, I thought about why having a perfect stranger buy me a yardstick that cost less than a dollar was so compelling to me.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been at two conferences that have included keynote speakers who’ve addressed the climate in our country right now. All of them suggested that we need to seek human connection, now more than ever, particularly with those who don’t share our points of view. I think about this urgent need as an educational leader all the time. Last Wednesday morning, Langley had an incredible turnout for our PALS meeting, “Let’s Talk! An Open Dialogue with Parents About Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”What struck me after that conversation was how eager we are to hear about the experiences of those within our community and how much we don’t actually know about those around us. So many in our school community asked if we could continue these important conversations. We seemed to have tapped a vital nerve.

The Langley School

So as you head into your Thanksgiving holiday, I hope you will think about the power of human connection, with those you hold dear and close, and those you don’t. I would humbly suggest that the more we reach out to those who are not like us – whom we don’t know well or about whom we seem to have made up our minds – the better and richer our empathy and appreciation for the world will become. The world needs our empathy, our presumption of good will, and our passionate belief in our sharedhumanity…now more than ever.

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