I went to Walmart the other day to pick up some adult beverages and help destroy local businesses. As I quickly weaved around an Easter display, I heard:
It was a student from my school. Not one of my students. I didn’t even know his name. But he quite obviously knew mine. He wanted his mom to know it was me.
“Mom! Mom! That’s Mr. Murphy! He’s a teacher at my school!” the boy shouted, just in case someone in the store didn’t know I was there.
Like it or not, we teachers are celebrities. Not huge ones. Not even on the level of a local weatherman. But celebrities nonetheless. Sure, my most rabid fans might be nine-year old kids, but so were Justin Bieber’s, Aaron Carter’s, and Miley Cyrus’s (and look how well they turned out).
If a student sees me anywhere outside of school, it is, for some odd reason, a cause to get very excited. It is as though they can’t wrap their heads around the fact that I have a life apart from work. I don’t really get it, but I bet real celebrities don’t quite understand people’s overreactions to them, either. I’m sure Katie Holmes has no idea why people want to take pictures of her walking out of a store holding a shoe bag.
I admit that, like many Hollywood stars, I do not always relish my celebrity. Sometimes, I just want to buy my six-pack and get out of there. But I try to remember that to some kids, I’m kind of a big deal. And I shouldn’t act like Al Kaline.
Think of it this way: If you ran into one of your favorite actors or athletes at the supermarket, how would you hope they would respond to your enthusiastic approach?
You wouldn’t want them to blow you off, act annoyed, be rude or short with you, act as though you were an imposition, or try to get rid of you as quickly as possible.
You’d want them to smile, say hi, sign an autograph, take a picture, and act as though they genuinely appreciated your adoration. You’d want them to be open, gregarious, even giving. You’d want to be able to tell your friends what a great person your favorite celebrity is. Mostly, you’d want them to understand and appreciate the rare position they find themselves in.
There aren’t many people in the world who have fans of any age. Most of the people in that Walmart will never get the kind of reaction I got from that kid from anyone, including their own spouses and children. We’re members of a lucky few. We should try to be grateful for it.
So the next time some kid excitedly shouts your name across a Walmart and runs up to you, tugging his indifferent and somewhat baffled mother along, stop what you’re doing. Turn to him and smile. Ask him how he’s doing. Tell him it’s good to see him.
Then go home, drink the beverages, and bask in the glory of your fame.