Here’s a shout out to our school’s Dallas Police Department carpool lane officer, Senior Corporal Le’ Shai Maston. You ROCK!
“Will! …. Hey Man. … Good to see you! You have a great day. Work hard. — WHHOOO!”
The kid looks over me and out the window with an understated sheepish grin and nods. We’ve just dropped off 3 of the kids at our first carpool lane of the morning and have turned out of the school’s drive, heading to the next destination.
This greeting mirrors the one from the day before. Every day, rain or shine, sleep or an all-nighter, Le’ Shai acknowledges each car that comes within a 1/4 mile radius … and then some. The result? Hundreds of smiles. This spring he added a whistle to his repertoire, taking what was already a bright spot in everyone’s morning to a new level. (I think he drove one of our staff crazy with his enthusiastic, sometimes joking, tweeting because we haven’t seen the whistle in a while. I think it got pocketed)
As we u-turned and made our way past the school, and past Le’ Shai, one last time for themorning, I looked at our 7th grader.
“How does that make you feel when Le’ Shai stops and shouts hi to you that way? When he says your name?”
“Uh …. It feels good…. really good.”
“Hey — remember that …. what it feels like when someone does something small like smiling and calling you by name.”
Whoa – he’s actually listening, so I keep going.
“In fact, look at what’s Le’ Shai is doing to each and every person he comes into contact with. He doesn’t even know the people in those cars passing by him, but he points, waves, whoops … makes each driver feel like a million bucks. You might be tempted to ask, ‘What’s the big deal about directing cars?’ But Le’Shai takes that job to a much deeper level. What he’s doing is making a difference in the lives of each person whose path crosses his.”
Le’Shai may not realize it, but he influences lives every morning. I know we look forward to his smiling face and crazy whoops … I can only imagine what he does to an unaware driver who can’t help but be surprised by the contagious enthusiasm.
Le’ Shai hasn’t always worked for the proud Blue. Before Dallas PD, he achieved the pinnacle of what every boy thinks would make his life complete … what every kid aspires to … a career in the NFL. He played for Houston, Jacksonville, and the Washington Redskins (something I honestly didn’t know the first couple years of our friendship….he doesn’t broadcast his fame… not that kind of guy). But that stuff always comes to an end. And Le’ Shai knows that everyone, from the President to the janitor, puts their pants on the same way.
I kept on pontificating to my kid (you’ve got to love the art of the car – a captive audience … only because they can’t escape!) “Are you getting what’s important? Not the fame. Not the NFL football career. Not signing with Nike or making a million dollars. None of that lasts … but what Le’ Shai is doing genuinely touches people every day.”
Within minutes we get the contrast. The mile preceding TTO’s drop-off hosts three different schools and a very long speed limited school zone. In the middle of the zone is an elementary carpool line and a couple of Dallas PD officers orchestrating traffic. The one that direct us is a pill. Unlike Le’ Shai, this guy thinks the world is out to get him. He is crabby and rude every morning. Just for the fun of it, I try to get him to smile. He basically grimaces and ignores me.
“Okay, kid. Can you help but see the difference??!! How do you feel every morning at this point of our drive compared to our drive-by Le’ Shai?”
“Crummy. That guy’s mean.”
“Pleeeezze remember this today, the power of the smile. … And maybe take the time to actually share one with someone … to say their name when you see them.”
Now I know that at this phase of his life, seeking out someone else is a tall request. He’s 13 … consumed with the idea that someone is watching him all moments of the day, waiting to pounce on the tiniest inkling of an embarrassing moment. He can barely think of anyone but himself, not pompously, but depreciatively. I’ve shared with him on countless occasions another little life secret … the one that everyone is so consumed with themselves, they have no time to be thinking about you. The kids still don’t believe me on that one. But we know its true.
So here’s a shout out to our friend Le’ Shai. Thanks for all you do. Thanks for showing us what’s important in life. Hard work. Encouraging others. Thanks for spreadin’ the love in the carpool lane. With examples like you, maybe my kiddos will catch on sooner rather than later to what’s important in life.
We’ll miss seeing you this summer!!
Thanks for walking the road with me.