It’s the one that you get when you point out something awesome to a middle schooler… about themselves. It’s an expression that makes me think they’re trying to communicate “I love hearing about this ‘good’ that you see in me”, and also “I really want to believe what you’re saying about me could be true.”
It’s what happens when we Call Out The Best in middle schoolers.
Jr. highers are familiar with hearing instruction from adults. And correction. And even warning. But I think they’re less familiar with adults really, truly encouraging them for fantastic traits that they see developing in them. Especially since those encouraging traits often aren’t “perfected”… but rather “on the way”.
A few days ago I was at a middle school basketball game. It was a thriller (as far as JHi hoops goes!). The point guard for one team doesn’t go to my church, but I do know a bunch of his friends, and he’s come to a couple of outreaches we’ve done. He hit some clutch shots down the stretch (including a 3 pointer at the end of double-overtime) and led his team to a win. When the game was done & he was walking to the parking lot, I noticed that his dad wasn’t around – so I discreetly pulled him aside.
“Nick”, I said, “that was one heck of a game”…. And he showed a smile, while retaining his athlete-cool. “But can I tell you, even more than hitting those big-time shots, I was even more impressed with how you played.” I could tell that he wanted to hear more, so I said “When your team got frustrated, you didn’t let it rattle you. And not only that… your teammates were taking their cues from how you kept a level head. I don’t know how much you realize it, but the rest of those guys really watch you. And when you give them some encouraging words, it really lifts them.”
The whole exchange lasted less than 2 minutes. But he gave me “that look”. And when he walked away he said “thanks…. Thanks so much for saying that”.
I still remember a guy who started calling the best out of me when I was in middle school. He was the first one to call out some gifts that God had placed in me, and his willingness to name them gave me the first hope that those things could actually be true about me.
Just curious — what “good” do you need to name in a middle schooler you know? DO it! And maybe you’ll see “that look” staring back at you.