Monday #43: The A-List

Yesterday I dropped my oldest son off at Rider University for a week in the Boys State Program. It’s a prestigious, youth program that focuses on citizenship and for which rising high school seniors are nominated by their guidance counselors. My son, Ethan is going, however, he didn’t get nominated for this program because, at first glance, he is just not the type that his counselor would select: varsity athlete (he is JV and runs cross country, doesn’t play traditional team sports), perfect cumulative GPA (his goes up and down–thankfully, now, mostly up), perfect attendance (nope), student government leader (nope again), and all around “teacher’s pet” kind of kid (um, no way). But, he decided that he wanted to go so he went to his guidance counselor, whom he’s known and utilized to the fullest for three years, and he asked her to nominate him. She did and he was accepted into the program–rocking the entrance interview and outshining kids who had actually been nominated. Proud mom.

On the way to Lawrenceville early yesterday morning, we talked about what he could expect there this week. As we approached the campus, he said to me, “You know, I’m probably lucky to be going here at all. I’m not sure if any of the other guidance counselors would have done that for me.”

Segue to another topic… the formation of my A-List. A couple of weeks ago I got one of those emails. You know the ones. They come from a dear friend and they just show up there in between all the advertising, the spam and the business related stuff you need to wade through. They tell you that someone is thinking of you, wondering how you are and hoping all is well. There’s the admission of life’s busy-ness but the wish that there could be a get together for a cup of coffee, lunch or a drink. I love these emails. They remind me how blessed I am to have such a beautiful, rich and wonderful collection of friends. These are people I could call on in the middle of the night, at the end of my rope, in desperation,  confusion or joy; people I may not speak to for weeks, months, even years but with whom I pick up like there was never a lapse in time. I believe that it is a rare gift to have people like this in our lives and that we must never forget that it is a gift we must earn. 

I find that I sometimes feel as though I haven’t quite earned it… that I haven’t acknowledged these people in ways I should. I don’t want to live in a one-sided way where I am not thoughtful or grateful enough when it comes to those who have enriched my life and helped me feel fully whole through our friendships. But, it’s true, life is so busy. And, I am guessing that you know the feeling of failure I often feel when it comes to tending to the truly important things in our lives–like our dear friends.

ImageSo, I’ve devised a simple plan. It’s going to have a place on my work desk, front and center, among all the to-do piles and the unpaid bills. It’s a list. I love lists. If it weren’t for the many lists I make, I might not ever get anything accomplished. But, this is a special list, this “A-List.” It’s a list of the people whose dear friendship I want to always feel I’ve earned.  I’m going to choose one person from it each week–on Mondays–and I’m going to connect with them in some way that tells them their friendship is important to me. I know that I don’t actually have time to meet people for lunch as often as I’d like to or spend hours on the phone calling all the people I would love to talk to. The truth is that my family is most important to me and will always get the lion’s share of my minutes, but there are small ways we can all let people know that they are being thought of, that they are valued and that they matter in our lives. This is something I can do. This is something that will help to fill that sweet loop of good energy we can create when we are working to be the best versions of our selves.

I told my son that, when he returns from Boys State, he should email his guidance counselor and tell her what he told me in the car. I said, you know, you really ought to tell her exactly what you just said, that you know not all administrators would do what she did and that you’re really grateful that she did. People need to hear stuff like that. Because it ripples outward and forward.

TRY THIS WEEK: Make  your A-List.

About Dar Hosta James

I am an artist living in New Jersey. I write and illustrate children's books, paint, draw, blog, coach, teach and speak about creativity.
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10 Responses to Monday #43: The A-List

  1. lynsirota says:

    Dar-really enjoy your thought-provoking, insightful, heartfelt posts. Thank you!

  2. Dee says:


    Love this line”it is a rare gift to have people like this in our lives and that we must never forget that it is a gift we must earn. ” I am blessed to have a number of these friends in my life.

    I attended Girls State Years ago. It was a wonderful experience. I hope your son has a fabulous week.


  3. Anonymous says:

    Enjoyed this, Dar. Thanks for your inspiration.

  4. carlasonheim says:

    Congratulations to Ethan! Wes went to Boy’s State as well, and was also somewhat of a fish out of water (he called it spending a week with “swim team captains and ASB presidents”). Yet… he had a great week… learned a lot!

  5. Great post Dar !!!!!

  6. Susan says:

    I embrace your blog, but Boy”s State? I personally never have heard of it before. My child was and is a military brat. I not being a go getter, did not do all I should have for my son, but he had medical issues in his younger years and also it seem that the majority of his life was spent without his DAD until he was in the eighth grade. That includes a daughter being born, and having her and my son without a DAD, with a son who had kidney issues and I had no one.

    So Blah, blah, blah, I do not know of these great things for our kiddos. I was just trying to survive without a complete family and all. I also had a very low self exteem of myself, and somewhat still do. But I try.

  7. Taylor says:

    Curious, I thought on my way in today. “I’m going to make it a point to read Dar’s blog while I get my day organized.” I was feeling the same thing, you have to give back and be engaged. I find that the notion of “deserve” is really pretty dynamic, and among loved ones its pretty easy to be released of any prior offenses of being missing in action by choosing not to be missing any more. 🙂

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