We moved from California to New York in Sept of 2014. About a week later Natalie came back home with teary eyes. She was having a hard time making new friends, specially on the school bus. In her own words: “Every time I try to interact with other children, they ignore me.”
Natalie’s portrait by me ↑
Natalie’s confession didn’t take me by surprise, quiet the opposite. I was anticipating this and I was ready to help. Starting a new life is a wonderful but also difficult process . I’ve gone through this kind of experience several times. It takes lots of patience, and a bit of creativity.
I believe that one of our main sources of unhappiness and disappointment comes from expecting too much too soon, from other people and from ourselves. So this is what I told Natalie: Tomorrow when you go on the bus, don’t expect anything. Don’t say anything. Just relax, be yourself, and observe. I want you to pay attention and notice things. What do the children talk about? How many are they? How many boys? How many girls? My main idea was to take her away from being too focus on herself. Sometimes we become so much the center of preoccupation in the world that we miss what life has to offer around us. Natalie’s expression changed slowly. By the end of our conversation she was relieved, positive, and looking forward to next morning. We ended our conversation and hugs and smiles.
Natalie’s first school portrait after moving to NY ↑
Next morning I took her to the bus stop and she said bye with a big smile on her face, as if she was on a special mission. I patiently waited until she came back from school. As soon as Natalie entered the front door she came running to me. Mom! I did what you said this morning! Guess what I discovered?! Do you want to know what kids talked about all the time on the bus this morning?
She went on to explain that the kids were having fun saying silly jokes that involved butter. To Natalie that was fascinating. Then she said: Guess what I’m going to do? I’m going to make a book called The Book of Butter. So she started working on it immediately. A few minutes later the book was 3 pages long. Next day she took the book to the bus so she could draw new pages. She kept doing that for the rest of the week. On Friday, one “troublemaking” boy from the back of the bus was asked to sit on the front as a punishment because he was making too much noise. The boy complained that now he was going to be so bored. Then very spontaneously Natalie said: Do you want to read the book I’m making? She gave it to him and he started reading it. Then he started smiling and then laughing. The boy passed the book to other kids on the bus and before Natalie knew she had become “a famous artist”.
From that day on, the kids were looking forward to seeing Natalie’s new pages. She drew them at night after homework so the children could read them in the morning. And that’s how her little book became a bridge of connection with the kids on the bus and in her classroom. For Halloween we went to the town of Woodstock where they celebrate a great parade. We didn’t know anybody there but suddenly lots of kids recognized Natalie and came over to say hi and hug her. It was beautiful seeing how quickly she had carved a little place in other people’s hearts. And all it took was a little creativity.
I just want to end this story by saying that we all have the power to connect with others by creating our own “Book of Butter”. Not all of us draw, but each of us has something to offer to the world and it doesn’t have to be an object. One of the main keys to happiness is doing things for other people with love. It sounds simple, but sometimes that’s all it takes to enjoy the ride on this bus called life.
Have a wonderful week!
PS. Natalie’s Book of Butter inspired Diego to create his own book titled: The Book of Pizza. Natalie has continued to create more books than I can mention here, many of them dedicated to her new friends and teachers. It got the most beautiful Thank You card from one of Natalie’s teachers saying that she though that Natalie had extraordinary gifts and that she was proud to be her teacher. Imagine how proud we feel!