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I was invited for Sunday lunch to the home of a family with eight kids…the perfect “yours,” “mine” and “ours” kind of family. With eight kids under fifteen years of age, suffice it to say, it’s a lively household. I was impressed that the kids each seemed to have a task to get the meal on, and later, to clean it up. When lunch was ready, I was escorted to a seat with the lovely, red “You are special” plate. After grace, I asked how I got that special plate. One of the kids explained that whoever set the table got to choose who was special that day.

“Really,” I queried. “Who has been special lately?”

There followed a bit of giggling and furtive glances at the oldest brother. “Can I tell, Mom?” a younger sister asked.

“If it’s okay with him,” their mom replied. The brother rolled his eyes, then nodded permission.

“Well,” the sister began,”he got the ‘You Are Special’ plate last week. See, he’s been getting into fights with this bully on the bus. Then getting into trouble at school and at home. Dad’s been talking and talking to him. One day last week, on the way home, the bully was at him again. But this time, he walked away from the fight. He was great! We all saw!” She grinned and looked proudly at him. “When we set the table that night, he got the plate. We were all so proud of him!”

I was very touched. . . not only at the way the siblings were recognizing and supporting their brother’s effort to do the right thing. But also I was dazzled at this mom’s technique of team building. So simple, so tangible, so immediate! So easy!

We often understand the power of parents’ affirmation when a kid gets it right. But how rarely do we encourage other siblings’ doing a bit of cheer leading. Looking out toward the coming years, I can imagine that these might be the same young adults who cheer each other on for winning scholarships, for landing a new job, for announcing an engagement, or celebrating the birth of a new baby.

They made me realize that there’s a LOT we can serve up on a special plate. Come to think of it, on any plate served with family love and attention.