They were in 5th grade, Haley had it all. Cute, bright, personality plus, vivacious and liked by all. If there was a popularity Clic, she was the alpha dog.
I asked her one day, "Who's the quietest kid in your class?" She thought for a moment and then said, "Spencer." I asked her to tell me about Spencer. She really didn't know anything about Spencer except he was kind of chubby, sat in the back of the class, never spoke and didn't seem to have any friends.
I said, "Haley, who's the most popular kid in the class?" She replied, honestly enough, "I suppose I am."
I said, "Hm."
I said, "Haley, have you ever talked to Spencer?" She said, "No, why would I want to?"
I said, "Hm."
"Haley," I said. "I have a homework assignment for you." She promptly indicated she was doing enough homework already. I said, "No, this is a different kind of homework, "I said, "I want you to speak to Spencer this week?" She wanted to know why. Then she wanted to know what she was supposed to say.
"In answer to your second question Haley, I want you to say 'Hey Spencer.'" She said, "That's all?" I said, "That's all."
She asked again, "Why do you want me to do this?" I told her, that's how I measure popular kids.
She told me her friends would think it strange if she was talking to Spencer. I asked if she would lose friends if she spoke to him. She replied, "I guess not."
I saw Haley a few days later. I asked her how her homework was coming. She said she was walking by his desk and said, "Hey Spencer."
"What did he do?" I asked.
"Nothing" she said. "He kind of looked startled though."
"Hm" I said.
I told her that her homework was to speak to him at least 3 times the next week I told her I'd be checking her homework.
When I saw her some days later she told me she had greeted him and that he finally muttered, almost inaudibly while keeping his head down, "Hey Haley."
I lost track of Haley for a few weeks then ran across her one day. I asked about Spencer.
I said, "Is Spencer still the quietest kid in class?"
She said, "No; now he won't shut up." ( I muttered under my breath, "YES" ) I asked if he only talked to her, she said "No, he talks to everyone."
Haley moved on, I ran into here when she was in high school; still smart, cute, vivacious and personality plus. Sadly I forgot to ask about Spencer.
I was proud of Haley. When you're the most popular girl in 5th grade it must appear there is no "upside" to interacting with the least popular kid in the class; and she did worry about the ramifications. But she did what she was asked and I have no doubt that Spencer's 5th grade year was immeasurably better because of the actions of the most popular girl in the class.
I struggle to remember my own lessons. It's pretty easy to interact with some one pretty/handsome, personable and outgoing. But I find I have to discipline myself to say hello to the quiet, sometimes unattractive people. It takes effort and sometimes I'm unwilling to make it.
But if the measure of a popular 5th grader is how she treats the invisible 5th grader, I suppose it's a measure of the adult male how I treat the less visible adults; male and female..
"Hey Spencer." Such a simple assignment but what a significant impact on an invisible kid and maybe Haley learned something too.
I think I can do that.