My kids (my own adult kids) knew something was up when I started texting pictures of the Pirates at CDS yesterday. First response from my son was, “a giant parrot is attacking the students! HELP!!!”
Full disclosure. My husband and I managed to raise three boys and a girl in Pittsburgh and none of us knows much about Pittsburgh’s teams except we try to stay on top of the times traffic might be delayed or shows might be canceled. And we do like the Super Bowl for the commercials and the halftime show.
So, my colleagues here at CDS were not surprised when I texted a few of them late on Tuesday night to ask to borrow something, anything, Pirates-related, that I could wear (Mrs. Mazer’s husband Rich came through with what I am told was a very good Pirates shirt). My colleagues know about my lack of interest in sports, and they indulge me when I dare to employ sports analogies to make a point. Sometimes they are on target. Sometimes they come out of left field. Sometimes I have to ask if being behind the eight ball is a good or bad place to be.
We laugh. But all that changed yesterday. I am now a Pirates fan. I warmed up to them when we were approached by Carolyn Slayton at the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh who told us they were looking to reach out to the Squirrel Hill community as part of their off-season (this is off-season, isn’t it?) Pirates Charities Care-a-Van program. They were going to stop at the site of the Tree of Life*Or l’Simcha, New Light, and Dor Hadash synagogue shootings. And then they were going to come to us.
Throughout their visit with us in the lunchroom and then during the assembly for our youngest students through 3rd Grade, it was evident that this group of players and other Pirates representatives were a class act. They were warm and sweet and patient while being besieged by excited children, and the choreography (a dance term!) of their moves while serving lunch (hairnets courtesy of Carole), signing autographs on just about anything, and posing for selfies, was graceful and generous and calm.
Before the assembly, emcee Joe Klimchak took me aside and said that he could feel a really good energy at the school, nice kids, good vibe. At the assembly, he went on to talk directly to our students about why the Pirates were visiting us. He shared his experiences as a child who had been bullied, who wasn’t cool, who didn’t wear cool clothes, and who spoke with a lisp. Even then, he dreamed of being an announcer in a Major League ballpark. And he attributed being kind―and the kindness of others―as key to his success.
I took the mic to greet our visitors briefly and thanked them for their support and for the way all of Pittsburgh’s sports teams reached out to our community in the past few months. I connected Joe’s words about kindness to our Mensch Project and our menschy kids. He knew that term (even though it is not a sports term!) and referred to our students as mensches from there on in.
A highlight for me, and what turned me into a fan, is that every time one of our students was called up to represent their grade and participate in a team challenge, the entire grade cheered in support of their classmate. We, the CDS staff, noted that with pride. As the event progressed, Joe and the players and coaches commented on it as well and said it was not something they’d ever seen before.
So, now I am a fan. I could see the kindness and grace in these players and coaches and the people that came on this adventure to support them. And I was also very moved at the way they saw us, that this was more than a publicity stunt, and that their eyes and hearts were open to menschy kids wherever they might find them. Yesterday they found them at CDS. I hope their Care-a-Van road is paved with kind and menschy kids everywhere. We need them!
-- Avi Baran Munro, Ed.M., Head of School