Written by Maleah Ann Ledet and Russell J. Ledet, Ph.D.
It has been an extremely busy last week or so. NPR, People Magazine, ABC News, WWLTV, WDSU, Good Morning America, and the list continues. The 15 White Coats have had a rather rocket-fast propulsion onto the world stage. This is all due to a couple of photos that we took at the Whitney Plantation. Of course, we live in a world where the photos have to go onto Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and every other social media platform. Although expected, the stardom has left us a bit exhausted from the interviews, struggles to organize, and the perpetual fight between relaxing on medical school break and preparing our hearts and minds for a grueling period ahead. The second-year medical students in those photos are preparing for the United States Medical Licensing Exam-Part 1 (USMLE STEP1), the first MAJOR exam in our medical careers. Nevertheless, this piece is not about the photos, the interviews, or even the STEP1 exam, it’s about a thirty-minute conversation I had with Maleah Ann, the other author of this article and most importantly my daughter.
DECEMBER 27, 2019
It’s safe to say that parents love their children, and absolutely hope for the best for their future. As the father of two beautiful princesses, Maleah Ann and Mahlina Abri, I am willing to risk every accomplishment to spend the majority of my waking moments depositing positive affirmations and faith into their lives. Today was no different. The baby, Mahlina Abri, a one-year-old EnergizerTM bunny, is probably having the time of her life at the Trinity Learning Academy, AKA her day spa, my bad, daycare. The older one, Maleah Ann, is spending the day with dad. This morning, after handling some business for the 15 White Coats, she sat in the backseat with that face. Every parent knows the face I’m talking about. The one that says everything without them saying anything. I understood from that face alone that the last thing Maleah Ann wanted to do was spend the majority of her day running errands with “busy” dad. The result? Impromptu diversion to the nearest AMC movie theatre to watch “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”, of course with the recliner seats, a large popcorn, and a large Fanta, because “Why not?” She was so happy. The movie distilled lessons that so easily coincided with what was a week filled with learning the ropes of how to handle being plastered on the front of newspapers and TV. The movie also prompted me to take advantage of the rest of the day and spend some quality time in an unusual environment with Maleah Ann.
The Greatest Teacher
By the time the movie was over, it was raining. If anyone knows Maleah Ann, they know she is so prissy and does NOT like her hair or nails or anything getting wet. I convinced her to go to this new spot for lunch. She got her go-to for lunch, fried shrimp and fish—literally what she loves to eat, any way it’s cooked. I got grilled chicken kebabs. I remembered when I was fumbling through GoogleTMMaps to find the directions to the lunch spot, there was a park across the street. In my mind, “this is the perfect opportunity to put her out of her comfort zone.” Out loud I told Maleah Ann, “hey baby girl, I think we should do something different and have lunch outside.” The side-eye I got from her was meme-worthy, but she obliged after a period of compromise in which she was allowed to get a Red Crème Big Shot soda, that’s a gamechanger. We walked across the street to the park and she begrudgingly utilized the small amount of napkins she had to make herself a dry spot on the bench. After we sat in the rain for a few moments, she did what she always does. She started asking questions. That’s what Maleah Ann does. She questions, and as a scientist, I love it because it is an outward piece of evidence that she is thinking. “Dad, who do you think is the best teacher?”
In my mind, this question was so easy. She loved her teacher from last year, so much so that she was eager to switch schools to follow her teacher to her new school here in Gretna, Louisiana. My answer to her easy question, “Mrs. Ring”, I said. Just like you are reading this article, and are not ready for her answer, nor was I. Maleah said, without the slightest hesitation, “Nah dad, it’s God. You must not be listening to my prayers in the morning. I say it every morning. ‘God, thank you so much for teaching us what we need to know, even though we take it for granted all the time.’ He’s the greatest teacher because he teaches us everything we need to know, and we don’t realize it because we take it for granted.” If that statement was not significant all by itself, I should note that, just moments before, I explained to her the significance of me taking time to have lunch with her and that she should not take quality time with her parents for granted since we aren’t promised tomorrow. Also, that comment about me not listening to her prayers was a bit shady, but I digress. I told her that she had no clue about the profound nature of her comments, and she just laughed and opened up that Red Crème Big Shot.
Not When You Want It, When It Needs to Happen
At this point, I was low-key blown away, but knew that there was more she wanted to say because, after I responded, she started lightly praying. “God, please stop this rain so my food can stop getting wet. I don’t mind being out here, I’m just ready for it to stop raining.” Candidly, I laughed because I knew rain was in the forecast for a little while, and it was kind of funny to see her squirm because of the drizzling rain. What I couldn’t laugh at was what she said next. “Dad, do you know why it won’t stop raining even though I asked God?” “‘Cuz God doesn’t need it to stop raining right now. Life is kinda like that too. God doesn’t give us what we want when we want it. Sometimes we gotta wait, just like I gotta wait for this rain to stop. You want the rest of my shrimp?” I don’t think she understood the profound nature of what she was saying. I did, and as a result we packed everything up and came right home to document it.
In Maxwell King’s Atlantic article entitled “Mr. Rogers Had a Simple Set of Rules for Talking to Children,” he talked about how Mr. Rogers was “extraordinarily good at imagining where children’s minds might go.” Indeed, that characteristic was evident throughout the movie. Today, I clearly didn’t have that talent showing because my daughter’s thoughts caught me off-guard. They also taught me a valuable lesson, that I hope this article has distilled to parents, educators, guardians, aunties, uncles, and everyone else I missed: there is so much to be learned OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES….
Maleah Ann Ledet is a 9-year old third grader at Young Audiences Charter School in Gretna, Louisiana. Her favorite food is Mac and Cheese. Her favorite sport is Tennis. Her favorite show right now is Greenhouse Academy. Her favorite thing to do is spend time being silly with Mahlina Abri, her partner in fun.
Russell Joseph Ledet, Ph.D. is a second year MD-MBA student at Tulane School of Medicine and A.B. Freeman School of Business, respectively.
To learn more about The 15 White Coats, visit www.the15whitecoats.org