An Exercise, by Sarah Sibert

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An exercise: stand up, approach a person near and dear to you, (take a deep breath), look into their eyes and wish them well. The topic, the words you say are yours to choose as long as they are positively focused on the person you’re speaking to. Okay, go ahead.

Now, how did that feel? Were you a bit nervous? Did you feel a little vulnerable?

This exact exercise is the core part of the Baan Dek birthday ritual. I was lucky enough to be a part of it a few days ago on the day my daughter turned 4. What an incredible gift it was, but not in the way you might think.

As you would expect, she received the gift of knowing her friends truly want her 4th year to be spectacular (in the form of airplane rides and Halloween candy). And of course, my gift was to see the beaming smile on my daughter’s face as she heard their kind - and kinda silly - words.

But for each child, having this opportunity to look directly at a friend and wish her great things is an incredible gift. A gift of confidence, courage, character and compassion.

It’s the kind of gift that will serve them well at the little league tournament as they congratulate the other team. The kind of gift that will help them apologize to a friend they’ve wronged. The kind of gift that will help them approach the new student sitting alone and say “I hope you will play with me at recess.”

The entire birthday celebration took less than 10 minutes, but you’d need a mountain of bead chains to measure the impact those skills will have throughout each child’s lifetime. It’s a gift I truly hope they will keep on giving!