One insanely hot and humid summer day about 1997, my friend Shelia and I treated our pre-teen children and their friends to a day at Libertyland in Memphis, Tennessee. Libertyland is an aging but nice amusement park with some really good rides. Libertyland also offers musical reviews. They manage to find incredibly talented teenagers to put on four or more shows a day; it has to be a grueling job. The theatre is shaded, but it’s an outdoor theatre, so there is no air conditioning.
When Shelia and I took our group to Libertyland, it was mid-week and late summer, so the park didn’t have many people in it. Being typical mom-types, by mid-afternoon Shelia and I were hot and worn out… while the kids were still full of energy and happy to continue riding the rides. We decided to let the kids make themselves sick riding the loop-the-loops while the two of us found a cool place to sit.
We found a bench in the theatre. All we wanted to do was just plop down, rest, and drink something cold. A few other people gathered in the theatre with the same intentions, looking for a refuge from the heat and a few moments of rest.
As luck would have it, a show was scheduled to begin within a few minutes. The performers put on a wonderful, energetic, upbeat show, full of rock and roll and disco tunes. Unfortunately, their audience of 20 people seeking respite from the heat didn’t seem to care whether there was good entertainment or not.
At the end of the show, the meager audience gave half-hearted polite applause. My friend Shelia, however, leapt to her feet, gave a standing ovation and hooped and hollered as if she had seen the most amazing Broadway production in her life.
She looked down at me and said, “These are someone else’s kids. Since their moms aren’t here, we need to support them.” Wow! In that instant Shelia gave me a perspective I had never thought of! Of course, then I stood by my friend, becoming a surrogate “stage mom” for that moment, cheering those hard-working kids.
That happened over six years ago, and Shelia’s words still stay with me. In a fast food place, I try to remember that the teen behind the counter is someone’s child, and so is the pizza delivery boy and the girl at the checkout counter in the grocery store. With that perspective, I treat those kids as I would want other people to treat my own children.
I especially take Shelia’s insight to heart when I see a teen in training and unsure of him or herself. At that point I go out of my way to give words of encouragement, just as I would for my own child.
Thanks, Shelia, for giving a whole new twist to the golden rule: “Do unto others’ children as you would have them do unto yours!”