Sunday, December 20, 2009

Happy Holidays!

You must watch this.

You will break out into a big smile, your heart will expand, and you will be filled with all the good cheer of the holidays.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Message of the Christmas Carol

Click here for original picture source.

I went to see the new remake of Scrooge with my family soon after Thanksgiving.

I've been watching variations of this story since I was a child, including the first black and white version (scary!), the Donald Duck version, and now this one with performance capture technology.

This story never loses its edge, because its message is wired into our DNA. It turns on our gift to choose. Our destiny is made by the choice of good or bad, selfishness or generosity, to be alone or to be with others.

We don't even need the science of the "helper's high" to know that giving is good for your health, happiness, and your soul.

And it's not only good for you but for those around you.

As Tiny Tim says, "God Bless Us, Everyone!"

Click here for original picture source.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


One of the best things about St. Luke's is that colleagues are friends. We work hard together, but we always make time to laugh and to enjoy each other's company.

While I have two siblings who are brothers, I have brothers here too. They tease me, give me advice, encourage me, and scold me. I always look forward to seeing them and deeply respect their intelligence, talent, and what they do for St. Luke's.

Two of my brothers are Dale Griffa and Rick Holyfield.

On Facebook, I said I loved Dale, and he wrote back that I should join the All Hail Dale Griffa fan club. Thinking he was joking, I laughed to myself and went to create a Facebook group of the same name.

He wasn't joking.

A student created the group, and I was the 154th person to join. Go figure. I should have known students love Dale as I do. He's strict and demands the best from his students, but he cares deeply about his kids.

Rick and I came to St. Luke's within a few months of each other. I came in late February, he in July. In September, he pulled me aside and said, "Okay, Ninette, when am I going to see the 'real' St. Luke's." I replied, "I've been here six months, and I think this IS the real St. Luke's. Everyone is nice, friendly, hardworking, and committed."

Seven years later, Rick and I are still here.

Rick is funny, honest, and a wonderful public speaker. He's also done so much to integrate everyone into the community and make sure they feel welcome.

Bravo to my brothers.

Even though they are a big pain in my side. ;)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Your Kids Will Be Known ... and Needed

At today's Open House for new families, Mark Davis spoke to the parents about the school. He talked about all the many opportunities available to students who come here, about taking risks in a safe environment, and how our deep sense of community provides the foundation for everything we do.

What struck a deep chord in me, like the bass timbre of a large Buddhist bell gong, was Mark's sharing,

"Your kids will be known ... and needed."

We all want to be known, but to be needed is deeply embedded in our humanity.

To be needed is to be valued.

And to be valued is priceless.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


School is so busy that sometimes it feels like I don't have time to breathe.

But you have to breathe to live.

When I need to reground myself, my form of breathing is to get to the reason why I'm at school in the first place -- the kids.

Instead of worrying about whatever I was worrying about, I went for a quick run on the elliptical and then out to the field hockey field to join JV field hockey practice.

I hadn't picked up a stick in 25 years, but in short order, I was shooting on the goalie and participating in drills.

One girl, Lauren, who just started field hockey this week, was fabulous. While she was new to the technical part of field hockey, she was an expert in passion and spunk. And that piece is going to make her a great field hockey player and teammate.

My time on the field was exhilirating! The fresh, cool air cleared my brain. My muscles burned. The kids inspired.

I breathed.

Friday, September 25, 2009

“Teamwork divides the task...

...and multiplies the success." - Anonymous

How true.

Most people will see the above postcard and think it's about Homecoming. For me, it will always represent a great example of teamwork at St. Luke's.

Jodi, our alumni director, stated a need on Thursday, and by the end of Friday, we had this beautiful postcard. Zoe, our communications director, added her resources to ours, even though her office was stacked, as was mine. Jodi wrote the catchy text, Desiree designed a stunning layout, Jane arranged the printing, Sarah got us the alumni mailing list, and we all proofread and edited our way to the finish line.

There is no way my office would have been able to produce such an eye-catching mailer to gain the attention of our alumni base.

What was extraordinary as well was the camaraderie. Despite everyone's workload, people pulled together with purpose -- and a smile.

Thank you to Zoe, Desiree, Jane, Sarah, and Jodi.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Single Grain of Rice Can Tip the Scale

Christina's rice crispy treats, lower right hand side, help raise money for fellow students in Sudan.

In the movie musical Mulan, which happened to be last year's Middle School musical, the Emperor says,

A single grain of rice can tip the scale.

How true this is. A single grain of rice can mean the difference between life and death, an act of kindness between hope and despair, a donation the difference between the success or failure of many.

Gabriel Bol Deng was here today to talk to the kids about his heartbreaking experience as one of the Lost Boys of Sudan and to talk about his organization, Hope for Ariang. Although many would have succumbed to the horrors of what happened in war-torn Sudan, Gabriel is an inspiring example of someone who took the coal of darkness and hopelessness and reshaped it into a shining diamond of compassion and assistance. He works tirelessly to tell many his story, so they will be inspired to make a difference. Hope for Ariang raises funds to support the construction of a school in Gabriel's hometown that will serve over 600 children and more and the drilling of wells to provide water for over 20,000 people. To donate to these efforts, click here.

In preparation for his visit, the 6th grade spearheaded a bake sale to raise money for Hope for Ariang. The night before the sale, we got home late, and since I was not feeling well, I told Christina, "I'm sorry, honey, but I'm just not up to baking something for the bake sale."

No matter. Christina said, "I'm fine on my own. I'm going to make Rice Crispy Treats with M&Ms. I don't really have a recipe, so I'm just going to wing it."

As I watched her guesstimate the marshmallows, butter, and some caramel chews, and pour the tumbling grains of crisped rice out of the cereal box, I felt immense pride.

Here is a girl who is showing enterpreneurship, resourcefulness, and creativity for a good cause.

The next day, we were running late and were in the car already backing out of the driveway when Christina said she needed to get something in the house. She got out of the car, ran in the house, and when she came out, she had some tightly folded dollar bills in her hand.

I asked her what they were for, and she said they were for the bake sale.

"I have $6 from my piggy bank, and if there's nothing I want to buy from the bake sale, I'm going to give this money anyway. I know this is not about cookies, but about helping kids go to school in Africa."

In addition to my earlier pride, I felt immense satisfaction in knowing my daughter understands philanthropy, which means "love of mankind," and what it means to live the school motto, Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve.

And who knows? Her final six dollars may help pay for the door that will open into a new school and a future for hundreds of children.

A single grain of rice can tip the scale.

Shot Out of a Cannon

Our Head of School Mark Davis says the beginning of school is like being shot out of a cannon.

And boy, is it! September is jam-packed with new faculty and student orientations, class trips, the first day of school, the first assembly, the first lunchline, photo day, parent coffees, Middle School and Upper School Open Houses, board and staff committee meetings, athletic meets, Admissions events, Annual Fund kick off ... You name it, we've got it.

The great thing about being shot out of a cannon is that the view is spectacular. You see the full kaleidoscope of school life, a riot of colors, buzzing clusters of excited people, and cheery but purposeful activity. You feel the energy of the festive atmosphere as wind that blows through your hair. The warm breeze of expanding minds, self-discovery, and shared goals invigorates you as you sail over this sunny, beautiful, verdant Hilltop.

If school is a carnival, I'm glad to be a performer.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sharing a Pot of Curry

Today I was at school with my kids to welcome and give a tour to a group of prospective families from Reach Prep who were considering our school. Fontella, a fellow parent and friend, was there too with her daughters, and she gave me a warm hug and freely shared her lovely smile. Like their mom, the D. girls are earnest, hardworking, and beautiful, both inside and out.

Last year, Fontella brought a Jamaican curry chicken to one of the school's Multicultural family group get togethers. It was the best curry chicken I had eaten, because the chicken was the softest and silkiest I had ever tasted. It was addictive. After that night, I would fondly tease Fontella with a "Where is my curry chicken?"

Well today was no different. I went on and on about where was my curry chicken, hugged her goodbye, and went home.

A couple hours later, I got a call from Fontella. Surprise! She went home and actually made curry chicken, and she called me to come pick up some.

Don't you agree I have lovely friends?

For more information on how Fontella cooks her curry chicken, go to my food blog, Big, Bold, Beautiful Food.

Friday, September 18, 2009


At Middle School Open House, parents get to come to school and spend a "day in the life" of their kids, wandering through the halls and going to different classes.

It's an opportunity to meet teachers and hear about what they're going to do in the classroom this year.

I was very impressed.

I liked how Mr. Chuhta, Lizzy's science teacher, said that his course doesn't have labs; it is labs and in that way the class is discovery-based. As a teacher, he is a GUIDE so the kids can figure it out themselves and see the real world relevance of science all around them.

Mrs. Cortes, Lizzy's math teacher, also had a wonderful philosophy of teaching math. She said she wants the kids to start with what they know and build upon the foundation they already have. She wants them to do a lot of THINKING. She also focused on translating English to math, as this is the basis of many real world applications of algebra: word problems.

I appreciate that they and other SLS teachers don't view kids as inert vases to be filled with content but as active, breathing participants in the learning process. Indeed, if the teachers are just guides or sherpas, then the kids themselves are forging new, if at times difficult, ground, discovering for themselves what the teachers already know. They will reach the apex, exhilarated in the knowledge that they got there on their own two feet.

When success comes from within, each student will carry with them the belief that they can accomplish anything.

What a powerful life lesson to learn.

Bravo, teachers!

Note: Thank to the person who took the picture featured here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Get Back to Basics

I'm a professional fundraiser. And I've been around for awhile.

It means I'm quite knowledgeable about fundraising and all the details that go with it. Systems and policies. Data and volunteer management. Development writing and prospect research. Planned giving and financial analysis. Ethics and events. Campaigning.

These are critically important.

Yet in the planning and executing, sometimes the most important thing of all can get lost.

Philanthropy at its core is about love of mankind. In fact, that's what the word means. It's about connection. Community. Lifting up. Being part of something bigger.

So we're getting back to basics this year. Person to person. Heart to heart. Really talking. Really listening.

And my soul sings in joy.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Explore! Dream! Discover!

When Lizzy came to my office after her first day of school, she was relaxed and happy. I could see the spring in her step and the twinkle in her eye. She talked enthusiastically about her new 8th grade classes and the exciting things they held in store. Youtube in Jean Cortes' math class. Measuring the real-time sprints of Mr. Chuhta's dog in science class. A music software in Mr. Shalinski's class that allows you to practice your instrument at home along with the rest of the band. Watching Lord of the Flies as the prelude to Mr. Haynie's civics class.

Lizzy also talked about the passion she felt in her teachers. "It's obvious that Mrs. Cortes LOVES math ... she's IN LOVE with math."

How lucky that my kids are surrounded by role models who have a passion for what they do.

They are learning, without even knowing it, one of life's most precious secrets to lifelong happiness and success.

You can do what you love and love what you do.

My kids will discover their passions here. They can try new things, master new skills, and be open to learning in all its forms -- through success and failure, understanding that comes easily or has to be wrestled to the ground, through Eureka! moments in a team of people or in solitude.

It all begins with the courage and confidence to take those first steps into the unknown. You may be a little nervous and excited those first days, but you know in your heart that you can take on the challenge and that people around you are cheering for you.

How lucky my kids are. How lucky I am.

Mark Twain said,

'Years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you did NOT do… than by the ones you DID do. So throw off the bow lines! Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the tradewinds in your sails. Explore! Dream! Discover!"

Best wishes to all our students in their new school year.

Note: Thank you to the person who took this picture.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Six Habits Worth Having

The new students and families are here for new student orientation, and what a wonderful bunch they are! St. Luke's is lucky to attract so many enthusiastic, kind, and supportive families who make this community the down-to-earth, genuine, and unique place that it is.

In Mark's send-off speech today, he encouraged the new kids to engage in 6 habits. I love this reminder myself, because the advice applies to everyone, young and old:

1) Work hard.
2) Be responsible for your actions.
3) Take risks.
4) Be curious.
5) Embrace differences.
6) Show concern for others.

I was able to meet several new parents during the morning orientation. Sachi, a lovely mother who is obviously skilled in empathy and reading between the lines, shared with me that St. Luke's feels to her a school like no other in the area. She used the words "authentic" and "real".

I completely agree.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Mike Mitchell is (aleppo pepper) HOT!

I'm a big fan of Mike Mitchell, who has taught science at SLS for the past few years. We were drawn together by our mutual interest in cooking, particularly smoking big pieces of meat. I have a Big Green Egg, and he has a water smoker, but with creativity, low heat, smoke, time, and of course, meat, it all adds up to the same thing -- delicious Q (that's BBQ).

When Mike became science chair, I could see his creativity goes far beyond a beef brisket. This guy is a whiz, full of knowledge and ideas to spark a love of science in his students and to advance the science department. Heck, I was not the most enthusiastic science student in high school, but I was ready to enroll in the science classes in his department.

Like I've heard other parents say, I wish I were a student at St. Luke's School.

Students and parents are going to love the energy and dynamism in the science department this year, as much as they are going to love the chili cookoff we may have at Homecoming (this is new math teacher Corey's idea). While Mike is an aleppo pepper fan, I use a number of chilis in my chili which I'm not going to disclose here.

We may be colleagues, but that doesn't mean I don't want to win the cookoff.

Here's to Mike!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ready, Set ...

After the quiet of the summer, it's refreshing to hear the clink of silverware among the easy, relaxed conversations of my colleagues at lunchtime. The faculty are back, and in the blink of an eye, the once empty hallways are shedding their summer silence. The air is buzzing with the energy of new ideas and engaged minds focused on the craft of teaching.

Like clockwork, the school year begins its familiar rhythm, starting with all-day faculty meetings that precede the official opening of school.

Amid new faculty introductions, CPR training, and the dreaded annual sexual harrassment training (which actually wasn't that bad as it was delivered by presenter extraordinaire CAIS Head Doug Lyons), our Head of School Mark Davis led us into the school year with some inspirational words and guidance.

Mark said, "We have to get better at what we do."

Since I've been here, this spirit of continuous improvement and attitude of striving has been consistent and as permanent as the horizon.

As a parent, I am thrilled that this school does not want to sit on its laurels but wants to model what it asks its students to do -- to continually explore and investigate new avenues of thinking, to develop and master new skills, and to continually push the boundaries so as to reach their full potential as scholars and as people.

As an employee, I am energized to be part of the history of this institution, playing my own small but hopefully vital role to advance this wonderful and unique place, St. Luke's School. Not only is this personally fulfilling to me, but I know that getting better will benefit my children and children generations from now.

Isn't that cool?

Mark talked about leadership, collaboration, and teamwork. We'll be working on these things this year, as we know all of these skills are important to our students now and in their future work environments. With the high hopes and optimism that always accompany new beginnings, let us start this fascinating journey. I can't wait to ... GO!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Learning History in 5th Grade

Last night at dinner, I was asking my fifth grader what her main takeaways were from studying the Revolutionary War. By the end of the conversation, my hat was off to Kathy King, her teacher, for teaching her not to memorize a bunch of facts but to make connections and understand patterns.

My ephiphany of the night was when I asked Christina whether she would have been a Revolutionary or a Loyalist. She said, "It depends on who I am," and went on to explain how people with different interests would have viewed the connection to Britain.

I asked her why the British, the "Goliath" of the story, lost, and she replied without hesitation that they didn't understand the terrain and couldn't adjust to the different fighting tactics of the rebels. She could see the connection to history in later wars such as Vietnam where powers with more funding and firepower were defeated partially due to underestimating the enemy, lack of knowledge of the terrain and weather, and different fighting tactics.

Making connections. Thinking critically.

This is what it's all about.

Serving the Elderly at Edgehill

I am so proud of my girls! For Community Service Day, a day which the whole Upper School devotes to serving non-profits in the area, Julia Gabriele and I took our advisory students to Edgehill, a facility for th elderly.

The morning was devoted to doing arts and crafts with Edgehill residents. A few of the girls worked with the elderly who were in assisted living and coping with early forgetfulness/dementia and the other girls worked with residents who were in the medical unit. They treated each individual with dignity, respect, and compassion, making friendly conversation and engaging with each person. They worked very well as a team, ebbing and flowing with each other and among different activities.

In addition, the girls planned a talent show on their own in advance of going to Edgehill, which they executed beautifully. They even adjusted their show effortlessly as one resident, Mary, who "called it as she saw it," wanted something other than what they prepared. Michelle and Campbell, our juniors, did a great job leading the girls in the show.

Click here to see the video of their performance.

[ ]

The girls did themselves, their families, and St. Luke's proud.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

"St. Luke's Changed the Direction of My Life."

Wow. What a powerful statement. Did I hear this from an alum? Perhaps a senior?

No, it was a fifth grader, as relayed by his mother at a new family party we had tonight.

I love these new family parties. Our head of school invites small groups of new families to his house to get to know them, welcome them into the community, and to talk to them one-on-one and together as a group. A few administrators, teachers, or trustees attend too, so they can welcome parents and parents can get to know more people at school.

It is very important to us that not only the children transition and feel part of the community but that the parents do too. A school-parent partnership and a strong parent community are crucial to children's success.

What's magic about these evenings is hearing stories from the parents themselves. This particular mother was saying that her child did not want to come to St. Luke's, as he was happy at his previous school. Now that he was almost through his first year, their 10-year-old made the profound statement, "St. Luke's changed the direction of my life." Mark asked what he meant, and the mother said that she thought he meant that he felt respect here. Her son was doing well by any objective measure, but his teachers said he could do better. They didn't let him slide, and even in his young mind, he appreciated that. Another family said they were worried about the transition for their two children, having moved back to the area from London, but the change was seemless. Recently, their daughter had posted a picture album to Facebook, and its title was "St. Luke's - How I Love Thee." How great is that? Other parents had similar stories to share about their children thriving, growing, and "being known" at school.

We work very hard at school, and we care so deeply about people in the community. It's affirming and energizing to hear that it's making a difference.

Who Said Kids Don't Write for Fun?

At the end of January, Lizzy got a Mac for her birthday, and a few weeks later, I was wondering if her dad and I made a mistake. My once voracious reader was attached to her Mac as if it were an I.V.

I finally had to put my foot down. "Lizzy, you are spending way too much time on your computer," I scolded. "You need to turn it off and read a book."

"But I am reading," my voracious reader replied. "I'm reading all this fiction on" is where people write stories based on published literature, extending stories in ways that its original authors never imagined. Readers can post comments, giving feedback, praise and criticism.

Lizzy was not only reading fiction; she started crafting her own novella. Chapter by chapter, she spun new characters, painted scenes through her descriptions, and created situations and dialogue. Beat by beat, the story progressed, suspenseful, scary, touching, and funny.

Here's a taste:

Chapter 1 (The Beginning)

My life took a drastic turn the day of the big homecoming game at school. This was the biggest school event of the year and all of the school would show up on Saturday to cheer on the football team. I never liked football. I cringed every time someone was tackled. But I would go for all the celebrations and hang with my friends. No way I’d be the only one to not show up to the game either.

I was sitting in the bleachers next to my best friend Amber. She was as bubbly as always, babbling on about this cute guy or the new hot guitarist of a band. I was watching the players down on the field.

The next thing I saw in slow motion. A small child, the daughter of the football coach, had dropped a ball, which had rolled, onto the field. She started toddling toward it just as one of the giant football players were running toward her at full speed. I knew that once he saw her it would be too late for him to stop. She would be trampled.

I felt myself getting up, although what happened next was a blur. First I was on the bleachers, and then suddenly I was leaping at the girl and curling around her to protect her from the oncoming boy who would have run her right over. I stuck my hand out to deflect the inevitable blow. The kid crashed into my hand and went flying.

Everything went silent. I uncurled myself around the toddler in my arms. At least I had thought they were arms. My once light brown skin was now covered in white soft fur with spots dotting the surface, and my slender fingers had morphed into wickedly sharp claws. I was still on two legs but from my thigh down was covered in the same fur and at my toes were more deadly claws.

I heard a frightened shriek and all hell broke lose. The coach sprinted towards his daughter and snatched her up and ran in the opposite direction. The crowds of students, parents, and staff all ran screaming toward the parking lot. I felt tears running down my face and my vision blurred. I saw a single silhouette in the bleachers. Frightened and confused, I ran into the forest.

Chapter 2 (Realization)

I stumbled through the dense foliage, blinded by my tears. I sat down on a log and tried to figure out what was going on. I stopped the flow of tears and forced myself to think logically. I am a normal girl. I’m just a normal girl who’s having a dream. I thought about pinching myself but after examining my claws I thought better of it.

I looked hopelessly around for a sign of what to do. Suddenly I heard a rustling behind me. I jumped and whirled around and a feral snarl slipped past my lips. Landing on the ground a yard away from me was a giant bird. No, wait. It looked like an angel. Now I felt bad that I hadn’t gone to church since last Easter. The bird-person-angel-like figure turned its head up to face me and I saw jet black eyes. I jumped back and I tensed, ready to run.

“Hold on! Don’t start running again!”

I knew that voice. I’d heard it babbling on for 3 years of my life. I looked again at the figure and barely recognized it as Amber. But Amber didn’t have wings. Or a beak. And definitely not those eyes. I could only manage a “Whaaa…”

"You didn’t realize how fast you were going! You really wore me out when I tried to follow you,” she remarked, panting.

I regained my speech and said somewhat irritated, “What the hell is going on?!” Now that the shock had worn off, I was so mad.

“Hold on now, Put those claws in a safer direction,” she said.

I hissed. “How can I?! I barely know how I got these and for all I know I’m stuck like this!”

“Ok, ok, ok… oh and by the way my day was lovely, thanks for asking.”


“Fine! Ok, basically you turned into a cat.”

“Really? You don’t say. I really didn’t notice,” I replied, sarcasm dripping off my words.

Ignoring me, Amber said, “There are people like me and you who can turn into animals at will. We are known as +Anima.”

The name rung a bell. Now where have I heard that before? Suddenly I realized. I fell laughing. I stood again and said, “+Anima? Isn’t that a manga series?! Ha!”

Amber looked at me more seriously than I had ever seen her.

“You’re kidding.” I said, “so you’re telling me that ‘+Anima’ are real?”

This was like trying to believe that fairies existed or that my dog was actually a unicorn in disguise.

“If you don’t believe me, look at yourself,” Amber said, pointing to a small pond a couple feet away. I walked over hesitantly. I took a deep breath and bent to look at my reflection...

I was impressed by Lizzy's natural story-telling ability, and grateful to her teachers for helping instill in her a love of reading, confidence in her ability to write, and enthusiasm to share her story with the world. These dispositions are created, day by day, through the teaching of skills and loving encouragement.

What's cool too is that Lizzy has inspired other classmates, and they are writing too. Lizzy has two new stories to tell, one based on the Twilight and Narnia series and the other on Twilight and science fiction. She's still glued to her computer, and I'm happy that she's found this new creative outlet.

Maybe she'll inspire me to write a story too.

Surrounded by Great People

Today we had a half day workshop on brand identity. While I am always grateful to work at St. Luke's, it's times like these that remind me how lucky I am to be surrounded by smart, passionate, open-minded people who want our school to be the best it can be.

Not only did we have parents, faculty, alumni, and administrators at this meeting, we had two fabulous consultants, Jeff Wack and Carol Cheney, to help guide and focus the discussion. Jeff, a market research consultant, went through the results of some external market research he did for us, and Carol, a communications consultant, presented her initial thoughts on how a branding process works. Both have deep expertise in independent schools and have deep knowledge and love of their own fields. In that way, they fit right in with our culture and "feel" like St. Luke's.

While we have just started the process of strategic planning and branding, being charged by the amount of positive energy, new ideas, and enthusiasm to continue our work, I know we will be successful.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Annual Fund Helps with an Electronic Lift for ESS

We've been grateful that some of our parent donors took the time to dash off their Annual Fund gifts before Spring Break. This is a boost in the arm for us in the office, as we watch donations that come in be immediately put to good use.

Over spring break, the tennis courts are being prepared to be used as tennis courts, after their fall stand-in as a parking lot. Fields are being groomed, while the teams were out in Florida for spring training.

The most exciting event for me is that we are able to put an electronic lift for Gerry, our director of Educational Support Services. He's been a true champion, pulling himself up the stairs every day, multiple times a day, to get to his office, as we tried to work with the town for permits and with funding sources, to make sure his workspace was more easily accessible. Of course, this will be of great benefit for any student who happens to be on crutches.

The Annual Fund is down 9% this year from last year, no surprise given the economy. We hope everyone is okay, and we want to know that we're with you and support you as you have supported us. Everyone's donations are critical, so we thank everyone who continues to support us to the best of their abilities even as times are uncertain. Great things still can happen for our children here, and will happen.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

God Strengthens at Wendy's

It's amazing how a stranger can make your day. A kind word. A helping hand. Even a funny joke in a frustrating situation can uplift your spirits and bring a smile to your face. This is what Ezekiel did for me today.

After we got our hair cuts, my kids and I went to Wendy's in Norwalk on 123 to get Frostys and fries. I love Frostys. They remind me of being a kid and going to Wendy's with my dad to get chili and the frosty, soft confection.

We walked in, chattering and laughing, and I was scanning the crowded menu to find what we wanted to order. My eyes saw "Frosty" in the center of the backlit menu board, so I said to the cashier, "3 Frosty Shakes, 2 vanilla, 1 chocolate, please, and the biggest fries you've got." The cashier cheerily took my order and went to get the Frostys. As I was waiting, I thought to myself, "Hmm, they gave the Frosty a new name." When he was mixing up the Frostys on a shake machine, I thought, "Hmm, I don't remember that. I guess they changed their process." When he started putting the whipped cream on, I realized I wasn't in proverbial Kansas anymore.

Ezekiel, whose name means "God Strengthens"

"Wait," I said, "Are these Frostys? What happened to the regular Frostys?" By this time, the cashier, whose name was Ezekiel, had already made three lovely Frosty Shakes and had put them on the brown tray next to a *giant* box of fries. His co-worker, an equally friendly lady, pointed in the direction of the Frosty machine. That's when I saw the regular old Frostys on the menu, in the lower right hand side, slightly obscured by the, you guessed it, Frosty machine.

This is when the magic happened. Instead of rolling his eyes, sighing, or harumphing -- what, can't this lady even order at a fast food restaurant? -- Ezekiel smiled at me and said, no problem. He voided the order, and his co-worker showed up and gave me a Frosty, the old regular kind. For free.

In my 40+ years, that has never happened at a fast food restaurant. NEVER.

No one asked them to go out of their way. I didn't even expect them to cover for my incapability of reading a fast food menu that had the audacity to change since I was last there. They were just gracious, kind people who made the most of their jobs.

I was blown away.

Certainly, this wasn't the treatment I had received at the DMV earlier in the day. Admittedly, I was at the DMV to figure out whether or not our car's registration was expired (one would think I would know this) and I was more than befuddled to find the car was indeed registered but at another address in a town where we have never lived. Now the lady with the pink-lacquered nails on her stool behind the high walls of the DMV counter was not impolite to me. She was not inefficient. Yet her voice was tainted with a practiced tone of condescension, honed from days, weeks, or years of dealing with line-weary customers. If only the DMV had people like Ezekiel and his co-worker

Thank you, Ezekiel, and for everyone who engages in random acts of kindness.

This is what happens when you eat fast food. Sugar high!