Too often we get caught up in the idea that inspiration must come from other people, that we forget to look inside ourselves. Well I’ve vowed to myself to spend some time focusing on self-empowerment and confidence, and what better way to do that than to look back at some of the things I’ve done many years ago and use them to inspire me today? Exactly, there isn’t one.
Since I am home for a month, with access to old writing samples, projects and home videos, I basically have an all-access pass to my past. Instead of sleeping in, re-watching Gossip Girl on Netflix and stalking Facebook, I’m going to use my time wisely by focusing my energy on my newest project: Kara inspired by Kara.
Below, you can read one of the first columns I ever wrote for my high school newspaper, The Little Green, about teachable moments. After re-reading it, I am reminded to pay closer attention to the positive things people are doing around me and instead of acknowledging them quietly in my head, I’m going to make the extra effort to applaud them for being a good example. I hope you will too!
Teachable Moments from My Favorite Teacher: Mom
An apologetic glance, roll of the eyes, nervous laughter, a dash out of sight, and/or a bashful lowering of the head, often resting on cupped hands. These are the definitive signs of a child, mortified by the embarrassment a parent has wrought upon them. Trust me. I know this routine fully well.
My mother is far from normal. No quiet reserved homebody is she. She actually has taken up embarrassing her kids as a sport in which she excels. It is a wonder my sister and I have turned out the way we have. As little kids we would cringe each time we passed an acquaintance and Mom would engage them in a full blown conversation as if we’d been best of friends since kindergarten. We would run and hide each time she was informed of a birthday. No matter how distant the star of the day was to us, she insisted we could help make that person’s day by belting our hearts out, no matter who was within earshot or what the surroundings were. It was no surprise when she recently showed up dressed head to toe in a Minnie Mouse costume at five in the morning to bid farewell to busloads of high school students, most of whom she didn’t know, heading to a leadership conference in Disneyland. Whenever we traveled alongside her, it was inevitable that we would find ourselves saying, “Oh no, here she goes again!” Truth be told we didn’t know it then, but we could not be more grateful now for all those moments and the life lessons they’ve taught us.
Like the time she suggested that we invite all the neighborhood kids to take a trip to McDonald’s in our new minivan. Keep in mind this excursion took place during the peak of the beanie baby craze. Picture seven children ranging from age six to eight all screaming out their order of Chicken McNuggets, Big Macs, French fries and vanilla shakes, simultaneously fighting over who would get which cuddly TY friend in their happy meal. Amidst all this insanity, mom (likely second-guessing her decision to have invited all this madness) accidentally misheard the girl on the headset, pulling forward to the second window rather than the first, where she fully intended to pay for the sizable order. As our crazy Caravan of commotion approached window number two, the frantic ‘headset Hannah’ sprinted from the first window to the second, accusing my mother of attempting to chew and screw at McDonalds. Appalled at the accusation, Mom pressed the automatic door opener, convinced that the site of all the little angels was enough to dispel any assumption of wrong doing. Clearly unmoved by this gesture and without regard for the explanation offered, this ‘cash register crazy’ continued to yell and curse as if we were actually robbing Ronald McDonald himself. It was at that moment, in front of all these neighborhood kids, that I felt that rush of pink come over my cheeks…my head began to bow, and I could surely guess what was next to come. I didn’t know it then but it would be forever etched in my memory as a teachable moment in my life. Without raising her voice to meet the tone with which she had been greeted, my embarrassing mother kept the door ajar and asked us each to listen while she gave Hannah the tip that she rightly deserved. It went something like this “I know you are probably 16 yrs old and this is your first job….to be sure it is not your last you should remember that no matter what you may have thought, you should never, never treat a customer, or anyone at all the way you treated us today. These kids need good examples, and you need to work harder at being one.” Having spoken her peace, she then closed the automatic door, paid for the collection of happy meals, and quietly drove away, leaving Hannah to digest what was said. No more words were necessary, but I can assure you not a one of us will ever repeat her mistake.
As if this excitement wasn’t enough for one day, it triggered our caravan pilot to make a pit-stop on the way home. With the MacDonald’s story fresh in mind, Mom led the way to the nearby Brooks Drug Pharmacy counter, with all seven children trailing behind her through the store. Without revealing to us what we were doing there, she requested to speak to the young girl behind the desk who just happened to be about the same age as our earlier subject. This Brooks employee reluctantly walked over to greet us with her supervisor standing at a close distance, questioning our motives. While we cringed in embarrassment, Momma Cronin proceeded to share what had just happened, citing the tip she had given our friend Hannah. Trust me, we weren’t the only ones wondering where she was going with this and if she had lost her marbles! In the next instant the reason was unveiled. Apparently earlier that same morning, while waiting in line to fill a prescription, Mom witnessed a pharmacy customer irately arguing with the young technician whose job required her to ask a simple question regarding allergic reactions. When she kept her cool, despite the lengthy verbal attack upon her for the inquiry, it impressed my mom so much that she made a mental note to later compliment her to her supervisor. On the short ride from McDonald’s the contrast in these two stories became crystal clear to her and she knew this example would provide an equally meaningful lesson. Sharing both stories aloud, surrounded by the kids she intended to impact and the staff that was growing in curiosity, my mother announced to us all that her behavior was applause-worthy and encouraged us to join her in the standing ovation that this young girl deserved. Needless to say, she was beaming from ear to ear, appreciative that the positive way she handled a difficult customer hadn’t gone unnoticed. Lets just say she wasn’t the only one who stood tall as a result of that moment.
Life is filled with examples like those of that one day, just waiting to be seized and turned to gold. I just happen to be fortunate to live them every day. Though red faced on more than an occasion or two, they have often led to my life’s most teachable moments.
Mom and me