Yesterday was an incredible day taking a group of ‘Black’ teens ice-skating at a seasonal rink in the city center of downtown Phoenix. We arrived early, which was actually a blessing, because we were almost the first to get to skate not understanding that the rink would be packed in about 30 minutes. While we were standing in line my intern did the typical group selfie that turned out great. (It became my LinkedIn profile pic.) I had a great conversation with a young mom with a daughter and son. Little did I know that the following hour would turn into a lesson on manners and saying thank yous. I should have titled this how can a ‘White Soccer Mom’ be so rude to one of my helpful polite ‘Black Teens’.
I know that there was an initial fear of ice-skating by most of the group, which were all girls except for Jalil and me. I hadn’t iced skated for probably 20 years but it wasn’t too long before I was zooming around the rink with the gals that were slowly getting it. One of the teens clearly had skated before or was that annoying type of person that could do anything almost perfect the first time. This teen became the helper of a group of little girls that spent most of their time on the ice rather than skating.
The story unfolds as we spend our time between taking pics of everyone slipping all over the place and sitting in the center show case of the rink, which was a Christmas Tree. What happened next was in slow motion and caught me off guard. I know that our group of ‘Black Teens’ did stick out a little with a primarily soccer mom group skating with their little kids. Out of one corner of my eye I saw my helper teen pick up a wad of what looked liked one dollar bills and then in a matter of seconds I saw this soccer mom type quickly come by and snatch the money out of her hand.
The reaction of my teen was what the ….. this soccer mom gave the impression that this gal was stealing her money. The reality is that the teen picked up money from the rink, which could have belonged to anyone, yet, this mom made an assumption that was clearly wrong that the teen was going to pocket the cash. So instead of having a happy skating ending the mom was actually rude. I struggled as I skated the rest of the time with telling her to go back to my teen helper and say thanks instead of giving her the eye.
This mom’s actions didn’t help the perception with my teen helper that most soccer moms are racists. I know that as a kid growing up the law of the land was finder’s keepers and loser's weepers. This mom I’m sure had this experience where she found something that her mom ultimately told her to return to the school office or not make the assumption that the 5 second rule meant the $5 was hers. I woundered what she said to her kids later that day about that ‘Black Teen’ that almost stole her money or maybe, just maybe, she changed her attitude and bragged on this ‘Black Teen’ that spent most of her day helping little ‘White’ girls get back up to skate?
I just texted my teen to thank her for being a great help for all of the younger ‘White’ little kids that were falling all over the place. She was their shadow that quickly came to their rescue and helped them have less ice or what looked like snow on their bottoms. The challenge was that this one mom exuded an attitude that offended me as I thought about my mom telling me both as a kid and as a grown up that THANK YOU goes a long way in building relationships. My hope is that this mom that was too quick to judge another will make a New Year’s resolution to think about thank you and manners in the coming year. My conversation with the other soccer mom went well during the rest of our rink time. She clearly accepted my group and thanked them for helping the little kids that were at their wits end with impatient moms like her.
So what has happened to saying thank you in today’s world? Where were you Ms. Manners when I needed you the most?