Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Stickers are (not) worthless

I'm excessively frugal. I love finding goofy gag gifts, but I'm more likely to take a picture of said item than purchase it. Before I buy a hat in the shape of Seoul Tower, I imagine how I'll feel when I get home and realize that thanks to some stupid hat, I'm now $10 further from paying off my student loans. Aside from a few necessities (like a thousand pairs of awesome socks - later post), I don't like spending money on things I don't physically need to survive.

Something I don't really purchase often, therefore, is stickers. Sure, stickers are cute. But... their entire purpose is to simply stick on another object. Why? Why do I need a small image to stick to an object? And what types of objects am I supposed to put stickers on, exactly? I have a few stickers on my Nalgene, but I have to be super-careful when I wash it so they don't rub off. I've put some stickers on my planner, but what happens next year when I stop carrying that planner? I no longer have the stickers I was so proud of. There is absolutely no object in my entire possession that I look at and think, "Oh, I'll definitely have this until I'm 80. I'll put my sticker on here!" All my stuff is just stuff, and covering it with stickers will merely make it cluttered stuff. Thus, stickers are (to me) the biggest waste of money possible.

I kind of assumed everyone thought this way about stickers, and so a little part of me always wondered why the sticker industry is so huge. Doesn't everyone realize that stickers are inherently worthless? They're tiny pieces of paper with a strange glue substance on the back that portray a random image or phrase. Why yes, that sticker does have a Power Ranger on it. But there's nothing that I own that needs a Power Ranger on it right now, thanks.

Anyway, I'm a kindergarten teacher. That means stickers are my life. Every morning, the kids file into my classroom, and at least one of them will pelt me with stickers. It's usually one of the girls, and I end up with five or six different Disney Princesses around my waist (that's as high as they can reach). I show a ridiculously high level of excitement to encourage their fragile psyches, and as soon as they're not looking, I toss all the stickers in the trash. I know, I know, I'm heartless. Whatever.

Something a little different happened this morning though. One of the mommies wrote me a note saying that her daughter spent two hours - TWO hours! - working on a single page of her homework to make all the letters look perfect. This student's handwriting has been, well, indecipherable scribbles since day one, but today's homework looked really, really good. I called her over to her desk and asked her who wrote the letters on her paper. Instead of being excited and proud, she coiled up into herself and wouldn't answer. I rephrased the question a few times, and finally, staring at her shoes, she whispered her own name. I turned her face up to mine and told her they were some of the prettiest letters I had ever seen (teaching is all about lying), and I placed a purple sticker on her hand. You should have seen the way her whole face just lit up. Well, actually, you can see it. I took a picture.

When she went back to her desk, I leaned over to talk to another student. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught her kissing her sticker. Kissing it. A sticker. On her hand. And it was one of the most precious things I'd ever seen.

So I got to thinking about how maybe I view stickers in entirely the wrong way. Yes, they're pointless. But really there's no physical object I can think of that actually possesses all the grandeur we've given it. I have a stuffed dog on my bed that Michelle gave me freshman year of college, and that bag of cotton made the cut as something that needed to fit inside my two allowed suitcases when I moved across the world. I'd be sad if something happened to it, but still, it's just a toy. Easily replaceable. It's the relationship behind the object that gives it meaning. The sticker on Grace's hand is just a sticker, but to her, it represents putting in so much effort and making her teacher very proud. Things are just things, but sometimes they can help you remember how important something was to you at a particular moment in time.

I'm probably not going to go out and start buying random crap any time soon, but maybe I'll think twice before I throw away all the stickers on my waist tomorrow morning.

1 comment:

  1. Is it just me, or does "The Sticker on Grace's Hand" have a nice title-ring to it?

    *calls dibs*