The week before Christmas, I had an incredibly wonderful experience. Through an organization in Houston, my law firm participated in a huge annual Christmas party for an elementary school in North Houston, buying gifts for a classroom of second graders. For each classroom, a law firm sponsored the party and we visited the class, ate pizza and junk food, handed out our presents, and played with the kids for a few hours to celebrate the holidays.
It was a really, really special afternoon and by far the highlight of my holiday season. Before the party started, I sat down at a group of desks with four girls and colored with crayons, and after the party ended, I couldn’t leave for well over an hour because we were having so much fun trying out all the new toys, arts and crafts projects, and games they had received.
And I want to tell you about a truly wonderful moment I had that day.
When I went to pick out toys, I wanted to find toys that would be fun but would also help each kid learn and discover new interests — science kits and art supplies and crafting projects they could use again and again.
And when I got to the classroom, we distributed each of the boxes and then waited as each kid unwrapped them… something funny happened.
One little girl opened hers, and it was a “Stomp Rocket” — foam rockets that soar into the air when you stomp on the launcher. I was watching when she opened it and suddenly, she looked distressed. The teacher came over and she pointed down at the box and said, “it’s a boy’s toy.”
And you guys, I’m well aware of the stereotype is that rocket toys are for boys and dolls are for girls, but I had purposely bought this as a present for one of the girls because I think that stereotype is garbage. And yet… I felt terrible for picking something that she wasn’t excited about.
But then, the coolest thing happened.
The teacher came over and looked at the box and smiled at her. She assured her that no, this wasn’t just a toy for boys. This was a cool toy that any kid would enjoy. And then — this teacher was clearly such a good one, who really cared about this little girl — she opened the box and assembled the rocket for her, right on the spot. And once it was set up and the rockets were loaded, every kid in the classroom was gathered around this little girl’s Stomp Rocket. Both the boys and the girls couldn’t wait to give it a try.
And this is a pretty cool toy — these little rockets fly up into the air so fast, they’re super fun for any kid, boy or girl. When she stomped on the launcher for the first time, the classroom literally erupted into shrieks as the rocket soared right into the ceiling.
And do you know who stayed around it, watching it lift into the air again and again?
Every single one of them wanted to try this rocket, and couldn’t believe that it worked. We had so much fun launching those rockets over and over — at least twenty or thirty times — and each kid who wanted to got to try, boys and girls both. The little girl’s disappointment of being given a “boy’s” toy was quickly replaced by excitement about being given the toy that every kid in the classroom wanted to play with.
And I was so, so happy.
I hope that I’ll see that little girl again — I plan to sponsor the same party next year, although it’s unlikely that I’ll see the exact same kids as their classes and grades change. But for this awesome afternoon, I got to see first-hand a barrier breaking down and a little girl getting excited about something she might not have been exposed to otherwise.
It was a great way to close out 2014, but the best part? Each kid in the class wrote a card that I got to take home.
The sweetest one was one line long. It said: “Thank you for my best day.”
These kids gave me my best day, too. The afternoon I spent with them was the best moment of my holiday season, and I am so very grateful to them for it.
Happy New Year, everyone. May your 2015 be filled with love, peace and joy.