I once knew a girl who was almost invisible. Her name was Jasmine and she was a second grader. I do not mean that she could not be seen. Instead, I mean that she had found a way to avoid detection. One day, I watched her descend the stairs with her classmates and walk out onto the playground. She flinched as she looked out on the asphalt. Balls flew and kids screamed. All of that noise, noise, noise! Please just make it go away! For an instant, I looked away from her to speak to a teacher and when I looked back, she was gone.
Not so fast, I said to myself. I stepped away from my conversation, and took a short walk to find her tucked around a corner, in the shade, out of sight. She was singing a little song to herself. I let her be but made mental note to locate her each day to learn more about who and how she was. On this particular day, she re-emerged from her corner when the bell rang, joining her class in line. She trembled a bit, remained silent, standing stiff and tall, looking up the stairs as her teacher came down.
So, why get nosey about a child who wants not to be seen? My curiosity arises from a hunch that break through insights may lay tucked away within nearly invisible children like Jasmine. The challenge is about how to draw out someone intent on disappearing. Straight-on approaches fail as even by second grade, these silent types will have created a dozen places to hide within themselves. Jasmine proved to be an emerging expert at avoiding an uninvited inquisitor.
Meanwhile, I continued to get barraged by noise-makers like “D”. His name is Dominic, but everyone called him by his nickname. For a second grader, he was the picture of smooth. High-fives, low-fives and plenty of “hey, what’s up?” to the third and fourth graders. As Jasmine practiced disappearing, D strolled across the black-top. High-speed kick balls missed him. Four-square players paused to allow him to pass. He was a playground king and impossible to avoid.
Someday, I may find a way to prove that an elementary school playground is the starting point for everything that will later appear on the global stage. A microcosm for the future of interpersonal dynamics and a canary-in-the-coal-mine for approaching changes that will pummel the planet and the human race. If even a fraction of the much anticipated changes do come to pass, all of us will need a complete re-alignment of our operating assumptions. Could answers be showing up now on the blacktop? Might they be coming from the very children we have ignored.
I can’t think of a single good reason to waste anyone. Since I know a great deal about what the high-pitched playground “confidence kids” have to offer, I am eager to turn my investigation elsewhere. The prospect that millions of hidden gifts may find their way into the sunshine helps me keep some space inside for hope. All I need to do is to stand still and keep quiet.