When I joined the Suncoast Summer Reading Challenge team in late February, I was pumped for summer to start. We were going to be deep in the community spreading the joy of reading, connecting with people, and making a difference. The excitement for the project was contagious.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only contagious thing in the world and life as we knew it abruptly changed. Luckily, and with surprising agility and speed, so did the entire program. The Patterson Foundation quickly, impressively pushed the conversation beyond mere coping in crises. How can we make this special? How can we still connect, listen, and share with the community so we can continue evolving and strengthening? It was a blessing (even when it felt like a burden) to focus on something positive when everything else seemed to be crumbling around me. The brilliance, dedication, and immediate action taken by The Patterson Foundation during a true crisis was (and still is) nothing short of inspiring.
Now that the program is in full swing, I’ve been fortunate to connect with many families about their kid’s reading achievements. I’m surprised at the pride I feel for each child as I type in the number of books they read each week. I honestly get a thrill knowing that we are getting books to these kids, and they are not only reading them but also loving them! Who knew joyful stewardship (one of many cool TPF values) could bring me so much joy? And although we’ve never shaken hands or hugged, hearing from parents about how much they enjoyed doing the book activities with their young ones has created its own special bond between us. They get to tell me how great their kid is. Who doesn’t like to do that?! I mean, have I told you what a great musician my three-year-old is or how she’s a terrific swimmer or… See my point?
Bragging aside (but not beside the point), while congratulating families on their child’s reading achievements, I realized… Hey – parents, you’re doing great too! Because they are. Their commitment to sharing their love of reading is inspiring! Particularly during these unprecedented circumstances. Plus, who doesn’t like receiving a good, old fashioned attaboy?! What parent couldn’t use a simple, well-deserved compliment, like “you are doing a fantastic job!”?!
Like me, it turns out we’re all hungry for encouragement. The brief sighs of relief in response have been almost palpable. “I really needed to hear that,” said one parent (Not my wife, for the record).“ You just made my day!,” said another. Knowing that I helped create a bright spot in someone’s dark moment moved me. It made me realize how potent kindness is in a time of difficulty. Kindness brings us together. Kindness strengthens us. Kindness is contagious. I hope you catch it!