This morning, Michael ran off ahead of me on the way to school as he usually does. (It seems there is something shameful about arriving at the school gates with your mum if you are nine.)
As I watched him running off, I saw him stop and turn and smile and say ‘hello’ to Nada. I don’t know if I have ever felt more proud.
Nada is recently from Saudi Arabia and wears hijab and niqab ( I think those are the terms – in any case she is completely covered, apart from her eyes). No one ever speaks to her on the playground and children, not surprisingly, often stare. That is why a few months ago I started to try to attempt very simple conversations with her which involve a lot of gestures and smiles. She has been round for coffee and has invited the boys and me to her home, too.
I never told Michael that he should be friendly to Nada. He just picked that up.
All the books about youth work that I am reading at the moment say something very similar. Children and young people are influenced by who we are. It is both frightening and wonderful.