I may presume myself to be smarter than a fifth grader, but there are many types of intelligence, and on at least one of them I failed to rise to the level of a kindergartner.
Not some hypothetical kindergartner or an average of all kindergartners, but a specific kindergartner who showed me up in the area of relational intelligence.
I mentor students at a local elementary school. One day when I arrived to meet a new student, one of the girls in his class stopped me. “Don’t I know you?”
My social circle tends to contain mainly people within a decade or three of my own age, so I said. “I don’t think so,” and returned my attention to the teacher, who was advising me about the needs of my new mentee.
But the little blonde girl was persistent. “Do you go to Grace Covenant?”
Umm. Wow. That seemed random. “Yes, I do.”
She put her hand on her chest. “Me too! What’s your name?”
“I’m Mrs. Stieffel,” I said, because the students are encouraged to address adults this way.
“Oh, I remember you!” I said. “So good to see you here!”
She beamed as if I hadn’t been treating her like a total stranger for five minutes.
Periwinkle is the granddaughter of one of my friends from church. We often sit near each other in worship. How do you forget a kid named Periwinkle?*
Well, it’s because I’m not terribly gifted in the social skills arena, and I tend to be unobservant.
Periwinkle, on the other hand, is clearly gifted in this area, as she mainly sees me from behind and until this schoolroom encounter we rarely said more to each other than the peace of God be with you / and also with you. Yet she not only recognized me but quickly placed where we’d met.
I can rarely perform this sort of feat, which is why when I meet people at Chamber of Commerce events or writers conferences I will almost always say “good to see you” rather than “good to meet you” because I am likely to have forgotten whether we met before.
I don’t want to try to change my personality, but I do want to try to cultivate this kind of relational and observational skill that I learned from a kindergartner.
*—Not her real name. But her real name is nearly this memorable.