Less observant than a kindergartner

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?”

holding hands by spekulator-resized

Illustration by spekulator • freeimages.com

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.

“I’m Periwinkle.”


“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.


About Kristen Stieffel

Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. She's a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Christian Editor Connection, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

5 comments on “Less observant than a kindergartner

  1. “Ask not how smart you are – ask how you are smart.” – Prof. Howard Gardner, behavioral psychologist, Harvard University.

    Forgive my cross-link of Jung-speak and the biblical Beatitudes for a moment…

    Periwinkle sounds like she has latent ENFJ cognitive preferences (or else ESFJ) – and you sound as if you do not. 😀 I have ENFP CP’s, but my ENFJ twin sister has put me in the shade with regard to “Blessed are the peacemakers” – the virtue in operation here, backed by Jungian Extraverted Feeling – since we were six years old. On the other hand, anybody with primary Extraverted iNtuiting (which can teach one – under God’s guidance – “Blessed are the merciful, or in Greek, the compassionate”) who applies himself tends to make people ooh and aah over his “brilliance” – which certainly did my sister no good, again since at least six years old, until her own talents blossomed.

    I once met a rabbi from that famous school in Cincinnati, OH., who himself probably was ENFJ in his preferences. I was curious as to why he was interested in what I was doing. I have never forgotten his answer: “Because you can learn something from everyone you meet.” I certainly learned from his example that day.

    That’s one big reason we’re here on this earth and why we have different preferences and associated gifts: that we might teach one another. Second only to answering the ultimate questions of life, I believe we all need to learn that our personal point of view is not automatically the only “right” one or even “the best” one. And the beauty of it is, we can be fully what we are in personality while gaining that balanced perspective in character. We can indeed learn from everyone we meet – even outright fools can teach us something, until biblical admonishment tells us to depart from their presence.

  2. Kristen- I felt your place of pause. I remember some of my most insightful moments being taught by children, or those I might think didn’t have the ability to yet have some of the insights they had. I guess as someone has pointed out to me- personality is what you do about it. I don’t want to change my personality either. Have fought to hold onto what others seem to want to change in me. But I’ve learned some simple and profound things from those I would have never imagined. So in not changing me, I’ve been in the flow of life accepting what someone is trying to teach me and reach me with.

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