Dear Educators:

The most important thing I learned in high school happened on the first day of my freshman year. Filled with anxiety, self-doubt, and confusion, I stood in front of my locker at the end of the hall on the second floor. Jody Koehler, a kid I had played basketball against in grade school, came up to me. After talking briefly, he told me we were in the first period class together, and then he said, “I’ll save you a seat.”

I am 72-years-old and can barely remember trivial things that were said to me yesterday, but I can clearly remember what was said to me and exactly how I felt 59 years ago. Why is that? Because the most important thing that can happen in human interaction took place in the few moments Jody and I spent together on our first day of high school. When he said to me, “I’ll save you a seat,” what I heard Jody say was, “You matter.” In that moment, my feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and doubt fluttered away and I couldn’t wait to get to my first hour class.

The lesson was learned: the most important thing you can do when you encounter another human being is to communicate “You matter.”

Unfortunately, this terribly important lesson has not been commonly learned or is not being commonly practiced. Years ago, Kevin’s father said to him, “I can’t believe we live in a world where you can pass someone by on the street and they will not acknowledge your existence.” Sadly, Mr. Brennan’s experience reveals a deep failure in our collective social development. The anti-you matter virus has been spreading around America long before COVID-19. Its brand of social distancing has caused social disconnection.

Fortunately, we are just a choice away from sharing the vaccine of ‘You matter’ with every person we encounter today:
·      We can say “hello,” “good morning,” or “good to see you.”
·      We can simply smile.
·      We can thank someone for what they are doing.
·      We can listen to understand.
·      We can help someone in small or big ways.
·      We can value the uniqueness or differences in others.
·      We can check in.

Click here to watch the video of Kevin and his daughter discussing “You Matter.”

Jody, my friend of 59 years, called me a few days ago. “Just want to check in and see how you’re doing,” he said. “I’m fine,” I said. “Thanks for saving me a seat.”

Our Top 20 team would like to save a seat for you at our virtual Social-Emotional Learning Summer Institute in June. Click here to read the flyer.

Best wishes from our Top 20 team…Kevin Brennan, Willow Sweeney, and Tom Cody.

Paul Bernabei
Top 20 Training