August 17

The Great Start

I learned a long time ago the power of the Great Start. In many offices in which I worked over the years I didn’t have Great Starts. In fact, I had Bad Starts. I’d show up and no one would have gotten a desk ready for me. It would be as if they had forgotten that I was starting work that day. “Oh, Jim is on vacation so why don’t you work at his desk until we figure out where you’re going to sit.” So NOT a Great Start. Then it would take a long time to overcome the Bad Start. I’d go to work for a few weeks wondering if I had made a mistake accepting that job. In contrast I can remember well the jobs in which I arrived and there was a desk with new business cards already waiting for me and my boss said, “Oh and we’ve planned a casual lunch so you can get to know everyone.” Great Start.

When our daughter Sophie started pre-school I remembered the importance of the Great Start and asked the preschool teacher if she could give a flyer to the other families. On the flyer we invited the classmates to join us from 1-3pm at the playground two weeks before school started. I said we’d be there with a blanket, some animal crackers and juice boxes and the kids could play together an see each other to eliminate any nervousness of the first day. It was so successful that the school turned it into an annual event.

So this morning, even though our daughter rode her bike to Freshmen Day at the high school, I wanted to see for myself what I had heard about from other parents. So Bill and I walked the dogs down to the high school. Clearly understanding the importance of the Great Start, our high school greets freshmen by lining up the drum corps, the color guard (sadly, I couldn’t get them all in the picture) and dozens of enthusiastic kids in orange t-shirts with the word “Mentor” on the back who line the entry to the school, whooping and cheering as the freshmen enter the building. It’s a big, loud, GREAT Start.

Because here’s the thing: just as the Bad Start is hard to overcome, so is the Great Start. If you have a Great Start, a lot can go wrong before it gets you down. Seeing a wall of kids excited to see you on your first day of high school is a powerful thing. Things will go wrong. People will occasionally act like jerks. There will be disappointments, but the Great Start will be emblazoned in our minds and our daughter’s mind and for that I’m truly grateful.