Seeking Your Advice for Little Miracle

This is not Miracle, but it might well be.A couple of months ago, I went to an outdoor movie in my neighborhood. I got talking to a tall man sitting in front of me. He was with his 8 year old daughter.

He introduced me to Miracle, his little girl.

“This is my daughter, Miracle,” he said. “I’m acting as both her father and her mother because her mother was killed last spring.”

A beautiful little girl, Miracle was full of life and energy. She was happy to talk to me.

She told me that she goes to a girls’ charter school in the South Bronx. She told me that at her school, everyone takes ballet classes and violin lessons. But, when I asked her whether she has ever been to a ballet, she said no.

The Possibility of Doing Something Nice

During the movie, I got to thinking.

It struck me that it was unlikely that her father would be able to afford tickets to the ballet or concerts, but that I could easily get tickets and take her to a performance. Why not talk to her father about it after the movie was over.

But the movie was long and when it was over Miracle and her dad had gone. So I never had a chance to explore that possibility.

I Couldn’t Shake the Idea

I thought I’d just let it go, but I haven’t been able to shake the idea that I might make a difference in the life of a special little girl.

So last week, I called the director of the Bronx Documentary Center to see if, by any chance, he knew the man and his daughter. “Yes,” he said, “Jeff walks by the Center quite often.”

I explained my interest in taking Miracle to the ballet and he said that he would feel Jeff out the next time he saw him.

It didn’t take long.

Two days later I got a text with Jeff’s phone number and a message that he would be willing to let me take his daughter, Miracle, to the ballet.

And now, I find myself realizing the responsibility I have taken on.

Bridging the Gap

What do I need to think about to be sure to make the experience a good one for Miracle?

  • What sensitivities will I need to fully respect the way Miracle and Jeff live?
  • How can I make her comfortable going off with me… a total stranger?
  • Should I meet them somewhere else, or invite them here?

The big question is this:

When the inequalities of socio-economic standing are so very big, how can we bridge the differences without making anyone feel uncomfortable?

Next week I’ll get in touch with Jeff to find out what times would work and how best to arrange it. But I would appreciate any suggestions you might have as I head down this path.

What would you do?

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Think of How You Would Bridge the Gap

If you were to plan something with someone who was richer or poorer or of a different cultural class, what are the things you’d think about doing to make sure everyone felt respected?

Please do share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.

  • Wonderful thing you are doing and great questions. If I were trying to coach myself in a similar situation, I think I might consider sharing with Miracle, if it felt appropriate at any given point, that taking a stranger out to the ballet was a new experience for me. Aside from that, just expressing warmth & interest, as you naturally do, seems like it would go a long way. Maybe there is less gap-bridging to be done than you think?

    • Andrea Kihlstedt

      Thanks Randy, Great idea to mention the unusualness and wonder of it. Yes, maybe less gap-bridging. I’ll for sure write about it when it happens. Stay tuned!

  • This is why I love you, Andrea K! I agree with Randy. In fact, I’d give you my grandmother’s best advice: “You just be your wonderful self. You’re easy to love.” Can’t wait to follow.

  • Brian Brolin

    Andrea, you are so warm and personable. Certainly that will come across. Your act of kindness will undoubtedly resonate with her, and her father. I think bridging any cultural or socioeconomic gaps are far less important than simply getting to know each other. Build your relationship from there, as you’ve done in the past with so many people of different backgrounds.

  • Tyko

    Just be yourself; that’s why I married you some 47 years ago.

  • bethraps

    I think yours are totally important questions, Andrea, and bespeak humility as well as wonderment. I think gaps are where good stuff happens. First, why not take her Dad, too? That would alleviate the stranger-danger stuff plus give Dad and Miracle something to talk over without you–owning the experience even more. You two could always have girl-time on a second or third occasion. I think what is going on here is relationship-building rather than just a one-time thing, which is why inquiring into it and doing it right is important at a whole ‘nother level. Second, maybe she/they could help choose which ballet and ballet company. I’m thinking that ballet by people who look like Miracle could be awesome. (I’m thinking Ailey but that’s just a start. Ballets can be modern.) Nearly all Western dance forms are based in ballet–jazz and modern included. If she knows the five positions of ballet, she will be enriched in her body-understanding of ballet no matter how modern the work you guys go to. Third, perhaps you will walk/take the subway, rather than cab? I bet you would anyway. Fourth, I bet you’ll already do this, ask Jeff where he’d like to meet. Equality of power in the process is the equality you _do have control over.

    • Andrea Kihlstedt

      Hi Beth. You make super helpful points here. I’ve started looking for dance performances that would be good…and yes, less classical and more modern. Great idea to ask her father where he’d like to meet. More as it unfolds. Many thx.

  • Andrea Kihlstedt

    Thanks to everyone for your wonderful suggestions and comments. Stay tuned! 🙂

  • Will Horst

    I once saw small sign hanging in a rather well-to-do person’s bathroom that read, I’ve been rich, I’ve been poor — rich is better. While I got the humor of it, I must admit it was a tad off-putting too. I’ve never been rich, but I’ve been comfortable in my life. I’ve also been dirt poor a few times, especially early on. When I was in college I had occasion to get a ride to another state from an older acquaintance. He spent the entire ride telling me about his very important job and how much money he made, how much he loved his car and didn’t I think it was just so luxurious. I wanted to throw up.

    While I’m sure you wouldn’t be like that individual, I think it’s important not to go to the other extreme either and downplay the differences. You have more than she
    does. It’s obvious. She sees that. Like others have said, I think the key is to be yourself. Anything else she’ll see through and resent.

    Something to keep in mind is the difference between a good mentor and a really excellent mentor. A good mentor gives lots of good sound advice, and the person comes away thinking, “Boy, she sure is cool and smart.” A really excellent mentor displays ease and contentment, listens calmly, and the person comes away feeling good about themselves, and thinking, “I want to be like her when I grow up.”

    • Andrea Kihlstedt

      Hi Will. Thanks so much for your advice. I think you’ve touched on exactly what’s challenging and important. And I will keep your excellent suggestions in mind. Here’s the update.

      I tried to reach Miracle’s father, Jeff, calling three times but got no response. And just as I was going to try again, Jeff called me and said that he and Miracle thought it would be fine if I took Miracle off to see a show. So I did a bit of research and purchased two tickets for a production of the opera, The Magic Flute, done by a South African company. It is at the New Victory Theatre near Times Square that does theatre for children. So, I hope it’s the right thing. We’re going next Sunday and I’ll take some photos.

      Thx again for your thoughts.

      • Will Horst

        Wow, what a great idea! That sounds wonderful. I’ll look forward to seeing the photos.