Grandparents and Special Friends Tea - Building With Kindness

Andrew Davis's welcome speech at the Grandparent and Special Friends Tea discusses the importance of Building With Kindness. 

Welcome grandparents and special friends. Thank you for joining us on this beautiful Friday for this wonderful celebration. My name is Andrew Davis, and I am proud to be the Head of School here at Mount Tamalpais School.

We love grandparents and special friends. Throughout their lives I LOVED my grandparents. Why?

Last year I told you that my boys, Harrison and Huck, would say they love their grandparents because of...presents! Harrison has moved on from "wee-ows" (fire trucks) to art sets, and Huck is now a big fan of "Ex-A-Waiters" (excavators and construction equipment in general).  

Regardless, they always want to see what the grandparents might have brought them. Indeed, I too loved the toys my grandparents gave me.

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Yes, that is me, your Head of School, your knight in shining armor, your bear slayer, proudly wearing a grandparent present.  I would posit, though, that we love our grandparents and special friends for more than just presents.

This year’s theme here at Mount Tamalpais School is “Build with Kindness.” There is a strong connection between grandparents and special friends and building with kindness.  We love these people because they build us up with kindness. They are not just kind, but they are kind in the most important ways, the small ways.

Enough of me in my long underwear.

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This is my mother’s father, Robert Brooke Pietsch, Poppy to me. Yes, that is me. Yes, I peaked in cuteness at two years old. And yes, that is a bottle of RAID ant spray next to the corn we were going to eat and the cocktail Poppy was drinking. Things were different back then.

What my family may remember is the big kind thing Poppy did, introduce our family to coastal Maine, the place my parents now call home, and where I spent many magical childhood summers.

What I remember the most about Poppy, though, was a small act of kindness.

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I grew up playing goalie for ice hockey teams in Northern Virginia. One summer I went to sleep-away hockey camp at Exeter, a boarding school in New Hampshire. I became uncharacteristically homesick. Poppy heard from my parents and chose to come down to Exeter to see me and take me out to dinner.

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Poppy comforted me. He took my mind off of home and got me ready to go back to hockey camp.

While I never knew my mother’s mom, Poppy’s wife, I did have a wonderful relationship with my dad’s mom, Harriet Davis, Grammy.

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Grammy embodied kindness. This is particularly impressive as she had raised four boys. If anything might take all the kindness out of you, that might do it.

While she did big kind things for me, such as helping to pay for my education, I remember so many of the the small acts of kindness. When I was 8, I was shipped off to spend a week with my Grammy and Grampy while my parents moved houses.

Grammy was a lover of all things sweet.

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During that week Grammy taught me how to make her trademark dessert, a homemade peanut butter cup. While I don’t recall the exact recipe, I know it involved lots of sugar, peanut butter, and chocolate, even more butter. I also recall how kind it was to spend a week entertaining me.

Finally, Grampy, my father’s father.

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The big kind thing was that he taught me to ski. We skied together on this first trip and every spring until he was no longer able to ski. Very kind, indeed.

Again, though, I am so grateful for the small kind things he did for me.

I loved playing baseball.

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I was not good at baseball.

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See. Not good at baseball

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Bad, in fact.

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Really bad. Remember, these are the photos that my parents actually chose to keep. Really bad!

Despite my lack of skill, I loved baseball. When no one else wanted to go to Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of fame with me, Grampy took me.

It was a long day of driving together from their home outside of Syracuse. I am guessing that he was bored out of his mind as I talked and talked the entire drive about baseball and baseball cards. I am certain, though, that he was being kind.

Remembering my grandparents, I see that the small acts of kindness really add up. They built me up with kindness. I miss them and thank them for that.

Scrolling through old family albums to pull this together, I saw that it is not just grandparents and special friends who build us with small acts of kindness.

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My parents did the same thing. Yes, that is my dad, not me. Yes, further evidence that the apple does not fall far from the tree.

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My dad, an incredibly hard-working lawyer, would get me out of bed at 4:30 on Saturday morning to have me at Tucker Road Ice Rink for a 5:20 ice slot. While it sounds cruel to wake a child at 4:30, it was an act of kindness. It was so kind of him to sacrifice his sleep so I could learn to play hockey.

In case you were wondering, I was way better at hockey than baseball. Not great.  But way better.

My mom did a very small, slightly dishonest, but important act of kindness for me. As I headed off to summer camp, she filled out the paperwork saying that I was allergic to tuna fish, so that I would have something else to eat on Tuna Tuesdays--tuna (mayo, really) remains a lifelong aversion.

Andrew, age 8 at summer camp. 

Andrew, age 8 at summer camp. 

Just as I was wrapping this up, having selected all the photos I needed to prove that grandparents and special friends are so special because they build with kindness, I found this.

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That is me, the bible-holding monk at the 6th grade medieval festival. No, Nancy Tracy was not my teacher – Mrs. Magner was – but we too got dressed up for class.

I was new to my school in 5th grade.  While I briefly started “cool,” everyone soon discovered that I was a nerd. A big nerd. Can’t you tell? Bible-holding monk?!

The knight with the sword (way cooler, right?!) is Mike Shaheen. He chose to be kind to me. It was his small acts that built me up. He invited me to his birthday. He picked me to be on his flag football team. Not a first or second round pick (remember the baseball photos?), but never last.

Mike Shaheen built with kindness.

Mike Shaheen reminds us all that we do not have to wait until we are parents or grandparents to Build With Kindness. You can build with kindness in 6th grade, like Mike did.  You can build with kindness in 1st grade. You can build with kindness today.

Alas, today is not Mike Shaheen Tea. No, we are gathered here today to celebrate our grandparents and special friends.  While doing this, I would like to make sure that we all thank our grandparents and special friends.  That we thank these people for building with kindness.

Thank you.