The lesson, like so many others, sprang from the most common of events. The classroom was rolling along at 55 mph toward the hardware store in search of a bicycle inner tube. The professor was my then eight-year-old daughter. I hadn't even realized class was in session until it was over. Now I wish I had taken notes.
"Tell me a story about your life, Dad," is how she opened her instruction.
I did as instructed, sharing the "caught bringing a snake to school" story. She giggled.
"Tell me another," she grinned, scooting closer to me in her seat.
I complied, this time sharing the "caught shooting spitballs" tale. As the anecdote unfolded, her eyes grew wide, then an expanding grin exploded into a laugh that shook all the way to her little blond pigtails.
"Tell me another!"
And another. And then another. I lost myself in the telling of those pleasant childhood memories. She snuggled closer the more animated I got. She especially liked the stories I had the most of - the ones revealing Dad doing something really dumb. The more I revealed to her, the closer we felt.
Five stories, 12 miles and one repaired bicycle later, I finally figured out that Dad had been the student.
My daughter had taught me that when we show special interest in someone by asking them questions about their life, they feel good about themselves. The better they feel about themselves while around us, the better WE feel about ourselves.
The more we sincerely draw others into revealing themselves, and treat those revelations gently, the more we deepen the personal bonds of friendship between us. To have a friend, we must first BE a friend.
Time flies, memories fade, and five years later that little girl is now a teenager. Stories about boys at school are now more interesting than mine. Teen activities leave us less time alone. At age 13, it's no longer cool to snuggle with Dad. These days, if I drive her anywhere, it's more likely to be a junior high dance than a hardware store.
Driving to that dance the other day, the teenage professor grinned and broke the quiet hanging between us. Her words assured me that magical day half a decade ago burns just as brightly in her memory as it does in mine. Despite the passage of time, despite her becoming more woman than little girl, some lessons never change.
"Tell me a story about your life, Dad."
Mike Johnson is an energetic writer & entrepreneur. Learn more about Mike's offerings at www.MikeJohnson.biz