signing-hat

Chris Hadfield is a pro.

Since coming off the International Space Station in 2013, he has turned to a career as ambassador for Canada, for space, for science, for art, for himself.

He’s written 3 books, spoken to thousands of school children, and perfectly understands his place in the world.

My boys are fans (okay, I’m the big fan, but I’ve transferred that affection to my sons), and so we waited an hour or so in line at a bookstore this week to meet Commander Hadfield and get some books signed.

And when it was our turn to walk on the stage, spend a few seconds with the man who has twice walked in space, and get some books and a hat signed, Commander Hadfield took that minute of time with my sons to impart an important life lesson.

“Nice to meet you, Zacharie,” he said reading Z’s name off a post it note on the book he wanted signed. Hadfield put his pen down, and reached out his hand to shake with Zacharie.

Z responded a little meekly, looking off to the side, which wasn’t like him. Since the boys were very young, we’ve taught them the “nice to meet you,” rule about shaking hands. We’ve taught them to have a strong, confident grip, to look someone in the eye, and say “nice to meet you,” with respect and acknowledgement. We tell them to do this when introduced to our friends, to firemen, to teachers, whomever.

But on this occasion, Z was intimidated, and Cmdr Hadfield called him on it.

“That’s not the proper way to shake someone’s hand,” he mildly chided Zacharie, the way a teacher or a coach would. “What do you do when you shake someone’s hand?,” he continued.

“You look them in the eye,” Zacharie responded, recalling his lessons.

“Let’s try that again, then,” Hadfield instructed. “Nice to meet you, Zacharie,” he repeated.

Zacharie and Hadfield

This time Z stood taller, reached out confidently, and took his hand while launching into a story about how he met Cmmdr Hadfield 2 years earlier and had seen his old spaceship Atlantis when we visited Florida this past spring.

Atlantis at Kennedy Space Centre

Then it was Charlie’s turn.

You guys, I can’t begin to tell you how much I’m falling for this kid right now. His determination is infectious, he’s soaring at school, his creative mind runs circles around all of us, and after hearing his brother get the lesson from Commander Hadfield, he reached in and hit one over the fence.

charlie-hadfield

Look at that face! The confidence, the respect, the .. wow .. like I said, I’m melting for The Chooch these days, and this was just another moment that swelled my heart.

We were on the stage for maybe 45 seconds, but in that moment of less than a minute, my boys learned a valuable lesson in respect and how to shake hands with an astronaut.

But back to Chris Hadfield for a moment. There were maybe 300 people in the bookstore for the 7pm signing when we arrived at 630. After milling around for a few minutes, Hadfield took to the stage with confidence and a big smile assuring everyone he was in for the night and would make sure everyone got something signed.

And then he sat down, and didn’t just sign books like a machine, but he looked people in the eye, he heard their stories, he gave them a moment of his time, and in so doing gave people a small story to tell for a lifetime.

This morning I learned Chris Hadfield stayed on that stage until about 2am signing books for people.

Chris Hadfield is a pro.

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