Over the weekend, a group of friends and myself worked together to put up an event for children from a children’s shelter. The event involved a cookery class and mini-master chef competition, with photography sessions in between. They came for the event unsure, afraid and shut off from the world. These were kids that did not feel wanted or loved, not simply shy.
Halfway through the event, they slowly started opening up. The next thing I knew, they were talking to us, asking opinions about their cooking, checking to see what we were doing with a particular item, asking for tips on how to operate the stove or the cameras. Most importantly, they were laughing, joking and reaching out volunteering to connect to the adults around.
If you had seen how a spark came on on someone’s face, imagine that lighting up on 20 children’s faces. Children, who thought themselves that the spark had died out a long time ago. The miraculous change was breath-taking and I wondered what had come together, in this simple event, for this to happen. It certain wasn’t the event schedule, the capital outlay, the preparation time – 18 of us spent 4 weeks planning.
It could have been about:
- The VIP welcome we gave forming two rows of cheering adults all the way to the venue
- The volunteer professional chefs (including a celebrity chef) and professional photographers (including an award winning photographer) patiently showing the ropes and enpowering the kids
- Calling them ‘trainee chefs and photographers’ instead of just ‘kids’
- Empowering them with skills to that they can take away (cooking & photography)
- Respecting them by giving them T-shirts & aprons as a ‘uniform’
- Treating them as equals
- The spontaneous outpour of generosity, like a volunteer chef touched at a particular child’s eagerness to cook, and ended up giving him his professional uniform to keep the child inspired
Or maybe it was just about …
Being a witness:
Susan Sarandon’s character spoke about her marriage with Richard Gere’s charater in the movie Shall We Dance: “Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness.” Of course, she was speaking specifically about a marriage and why the connection matters.
Though, it struck me as essential in all human connection. That why the magic works, between friends, families, parents and children, teachers and students, colleagues, strangers – is that people want to matter. And without the theatrics, a simple act of showing, in your own way, that you will be a witness for this other person. You will be a witness to them. Because they matter.
And that, is the difference it makes.