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Happy Place

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

My kids had their semi-annual dentist appointments this weekend. As always, I was amazed and delighted by the level of joy and sheer awesome that radiates out of that office. It’s not just the office itself, although that is nothing short of spectacular: animals hanging from the ceiling and huge murals painted on the walls and fun chairs for the kids to sit on and TVs with great kids’ programs on in every room. The setting is fantastic, for sure, but it really does just set the stage for the people within.

The people! From the moment we walk in the door we are always greeted and welcomed by smiling happy people—smiling happy people who seem to immediately know who we are and work to make us comfortable from beginning to end. The kids are complimented and oohed and ahhed over. On this particular day Dylan had decided to dress up in his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume to battle the dentist, and rumors of his arrival seemed to spread all across the office... people came to see him just to say hi, and they even found a matching pair of Ninja Turtle sunglasses for him to wear (because all the kids get super cool sunglasses to shield their eyes from the glare of the light during their check-up. I mean, c'mon). The hygienists talk to the kids the entire time, making sure they understand and are comfortable with every step of the way. The dentists are loving and jovial. The whole place feels like a party, with an open floor plan that still manages to offer privacy. The staff appear to enjoy working there and enjoy working together. The kids get a token to pick a magical prize out of the magical prize machine at the end. I’m not kidding, even paying ridiculous dental bills feels easy and kind. I tell you, it is a Happy. Place.  The kids, Marlowe in particular, pretty much wish they could go every week. To the dentist. I don't know about you, but that is not the way my dentist office makes me feel.

It got me wishing not just that more places could be like that, but that more places that weren’t specifically designed for kids could be like that. Why does it sometimes seem that only kids’ places take the task of creating joy so seriously? Because joy is serious business, and it’s important for all of us, not just for kids. And why does it seem that only kids’ places bend over backwards to be kind and gentle? Because kindness is important, too, and not just for kids. As Robby Novack, aka Kid President, says in his video, “A Letter To The Future From Kid President,” we should all “throw kindness around like confetti.”

Because here is the thing: the kids’ dentist office understands that trips to the dentist can feel scary to young ones, and so they work diligently to change that image. They tend to the children that are in their care, paying attention to every gesture, grimace, facial expression—taking all the time needed to make sure the children have a positive experience. They make sure every child feels important, feels safe, feels paid attention to, and has fun along the way. They understand that the experience matters as much as-- no, more than-- the tasks and transactions.

What if we all did that? What if we all understood that life can be scary and so it is our collective responsibility to create joy and scatter kindness wherever possible? What if we made it our responsibility to tend to all the people we encountered with care and attentiveness? And what if we opened ourselves up to be cared for too? What kind of crazy Happy Place world would that create? I mean, I don't think there is any age at which we every truly outgrow confetti—or kindness.

How can you “throw kindness around like confetti” today?


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Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.