Monday, April 18, 2011

The attack of the Warm Fuzzy

My third grade teacher, Mrs. Shawver, used to give out warm fuzzies.

But her warm fuzzies were not a condition of the heart. No, no. They were colored cotton balls with plastic googly eyes hot glued to them. She literally called these little colored-cotton-balls-with-eyes: Warm Fuzzies.

A warm fuzzy was the Academy Award of third grade. Everyone wanted one of those googly-eyed cotton balls, yet it was a dream realized only by a select few.

Whenever one received a warm fuzzy, fierce jealousy ensued. Friendships were tested, if not destroyed. The receiver of said warm fuzzy would place it on their desk; ostensibly a badge of honor was considered by classmates the Scarlet Letter of brown-nosing and suck-up.

(Side note: I used a “word of the day” FIVE POINTS TO GRYFFINDOR!)

To put simply, warm fuzzies were a reward for good behavior. Not just any good behavior, mind you. Any kid can force themselves to obediently sit still for twenty minutes of story time. Warm fuzzies were for the above and beyond of good behavior. Warm fuzzies were for the elite. Warm fuzzies were never guaranteed - they were reserved only for moments that captured the most sincere, genuine, and heart-felt displays of thoughtfulness.

In order to receive a warm fuzzy you had to do something nice...for someone else. Sickening, I know.

Mrs. Shawver kept the warm fuzzies in a shoebox on a shelf above the coat rack. We all knew they were there. Every once in a while she would walk to that coat rack, and reach for that shoebox, and during the one minute it took for her to pull out a warm fuzzy, every eye in the room glazed over with hope and wonderment.

Twenty-five little third grade minds raced. “Is it me? Am I getting the warm fuzzy? I have been good today. It could be me. OMG I held the door open after recess. It must be me. OMG it’s me. OMG OMG OMG OMG. Say my name, Mrs. Shawver, SAY IT.”

Mrs. Shawver smiled, “Ashely, you deserve a warm fuzzy.”


On that particular day we had a lesson on maps. How to read maps, what’s the “key” and whatever-the-days-for-needing-maps-are-numbered. For this lesson we didn’t sit in our desks, we instead gathered on the floor in front of the chalkboard.

Here we go, twenty-five nine-year-olds with varying bathing patterns crammed on the floor in front of the board. One of my fellow students, Tim, had a vision problem and everyone knew it because he was promised to always have the desk in the front of the room. You know, there’s always that one kid who manages to snag special treatment. Sheesh. On this very day, Tim was at a loss. By a stroke of bad luck and poor coordination he was forced to sit on the floor in the back of the group.

Thank the dickens Ashley was there. She was sitting in the front and must have noticed the bewildered Tim and generously said, “Tim, you can have my seat.”

Cue warm fuzzy. Annnnddddd, scene.

My mind filled with rage. “I hate Ashley. She is such a teacher’s pet. She always gets everything. I can’t believe I’m friends with her. I can’t believe I went to her birthday party. Teacher’s pet teacher’s pet I hate you.”

My hatred spurred from my lust for my own warm fuzzy. How I prayed that one day I, too, would have those googly eyes staring at me from the top of my desk. A warm fuzzy was an honor unmatched by any else, and how I wanted it.

I was obsessed. On my quest for the warm fuzzy I decided to give out good deeds like America giving out Type II diabetes. I suffered dehydration as I forfeited my spot in the water fountain line to my fellow students. If I was faced with the last chocolate milk, I would leave it for the kid behind me in the cafeteria – settling for the plain ol’ white stuff.

Unbeknownst to me, Mrs. Shawver was shaping me into a thoughtful, considerate, aware human being.

How dare her.

It began with me prostituting my thoughtfulness for the elusive warm fuzzy, but what was first hunger for a googly eyed cotton ball graduated into second nature. And ultimately, I graduated third grade and was no longer under the guidance of Mrs. Shawver. I was no longer eligible for a warm fuzzy.

Thoughtfulness is now an organic process. I naturally hold the door open for people. After waiting in the bathroom line for eternity (as women do), I give the mother-small child hybrid the first open stall. I tell people when they drop money on the ground. I will secretly seek to destroy you, but will still let you have the last beer. I smell a Noble Peace Prize coming.

Yet in this world of I-Will-Not-Hold-The-Elevator-Door and Let-Me-Text-During-Our-Conversation it makes me question: where has all the thoughtfulness gone?

I often find myself wondering what is happening to people. Why are screaming children allowed to run amuck in a restaurant? Why are “please” and “thank you” on the endangered phrases list? Why are people nose-deep in their screens in the middle of a conversation? Why do people think being chronically fifteen minutes late is no big deal?

Then I begin to question myself: is it the people who are less thoughtful, or does sending a thank you card make me an extremist? Am I the exception and not the rule?

I feel a condescending tone coming through and it is unintentional. Promise.

I am at a loss – confused by the abundance of forgetfulness and lack of consideration in our society. There must be a solution. There must be a way to correct our flighty minds and Who Cares attitudes.

What we need…are some warm fuzzies.

First, a Warm Fuzzy Volunteer Force must be established. This, of course, will be of no cost to the federal or local governments. Goodness knows their involvement would include too many committees and then they would take another three years to decide on logo.

Secondly, volunteers will be equipped with warm fuzzies. However, I do not believe colored cotton balls will suffice as proper reward for adults exuding thoughtfulness; therefore I chose something a bit more appropriate.

Barbeque spare ribs.

The Warm Fuzzy Volunteer Force will scour the country with bundles of barbeque spare ribs in a satchel at their sides. Not to worry, grocery stores will willingly donate the ribs after a serious bout of empty threats given by yours truly.

Hold the door open? Have some ribs. Pay for the car behind you at a toll booth? Have some ribs. Ignore your text message long enough to excuse yourself? Have some ribs. Help the elderly person with their groceries? Have some ribs.

It is only with the promise of ribs do I wholesomely believe our insidious self-centered habits will be repaired.

Bring on the thoughtfulness! Annnddd BYOWN. Bring. Your. Own. Wet. Nap.

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