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The Hufflepuff Crisis

Updated: Jun 24, 2021

Photo by Lisa Fotios on

Six years ago, my husband, daughter and I took a much anticipated trip to London. Among many other destinations, part of our itinerary was visiting Platform 9 3/4 and doing the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour. We are huge HP fans. My daughter started trying to read Harry Potter in second grade (along with many of her peers); she is 23 now. It was inspiring to see seven-year-olds lugging thick, small print books back and forth to school every day. Many of them actually achieved reading the words that year (even if their comprehension was off). As an educator, I quickly fell in love with the true magic of HP, motivating young children to want to read. Ever since then, we have been dedicated fans, congregating at bookstores at midnight when new books in the series were to be released. We were the second one in a long line to see Order of the Phoenix (buying tickets weeks in advance), behind a woman in labor, who, much to her chagrin, had to leave mid-movie to give birth.

But, more to the point. I am a Hufflepuff. My husband is a Hufflepuff, too. My daughter is a Ravenclaw through and through. For those less familiar, Ravenclaws are known for their intelligence. Gryffindors are known for their courage. Slytherins are known for their ambition, and Hufflepuffs are known for their kindness.

Back to London. Our third day in London was going to be dedicated to all things Harry Potter. Around noon we arrived at Kings Cross Station where at least 50 people were waiting to push their cart of belongings into the wall that took you to the fictional train platform 9 3/4 where you could then embark to Hogwarts. We watched as people stepped up to have their picture taken. The nice attendant asked each person what house they were in so he could adorn them with house attire for a photo opportunity. My daughter went first and put on her blue Ravenclaw scarf with pride. Then my husband went. To my shock, he asked for the same scarf. What? My husband, the Hufflepuff, walked up to the cart wearing another house’s color. When I asked for my yellow Hufflepuff scarf, the attendant made an announcement, “The first Hufflepuff of the day!” Impossible. With only four houses and hundreds of people having been through the line, what are the chances that I was truly the first Hufflepuff? As I wondered what was going on, I thought, well, at least I have significantly less chances of getting lice from the shared apparel.

After our experience at the train station, we got on a bus that took us to the Warner Brother Studios. Once there, we entered the Great Room. Again, for those that are not Potterheads, that is the room where the Hogwarts students go to eat meals and first years are sorted into their houses. A tour guide asked about the 200 or so eager HP fans which house we belong to. Again, I am the only person that raised her hand. (And, again my husband swore allegiance to Ravenclaw.) What was happening here? It is impossible that this group doesn’t have a Hufflepuff, but no one seems to want to admit it, even young children. So the question arises, why don’t people want to be labeled kind when they have choices like smart, ambitious or courageous?

I am not sure exactly what to make of it that adults and children alike don’t want to be sorted into the “nice” house. I would very much welcome comments on this blog as to why you think this is true, but I know one thing, I would like to see this change. Sure, it’s great to be smart, brave and ambitious, but being nice, isn’t that something we can all equally strive to be? Are there barriers to being kind? I fear that we associate kindness with weakness – that we see nice people as people who can be bullied or taken advantage of. And, they can. But, caring for others, doesn’t have to mean that we don’t care for ourselves. We don’t need a world of Hufflepuffs, but we certainly need a world where no one is embarrassed to be one. We can even see this play out in the agitation within our political posturing. How do we change the conversation around kindness? You can be kind and be strong. In fact, people who are secure in themselves often feel more empowered to focus on the well-being of others. Kindness can be emblematic of your confidence, and it just might be the quality that allows your team to work well together, because as a kind leader, you are going to be focused on others’ success as well as your own. When others succeed, so does the team. Adam Grant, Wharton professor and author of Give and Take, Why Helping Others Drives Our Success has written extensively that givers (people who put others first) are great collaborators and, more often than not, are more successful than their peers in all the ways that count (collaboration and outcomes).

So, to the secret Hufflepuffs out there – be proud. Sing the virtues of kindness. It is not a lesser quality. I look forward to a day to a return trip to London where I don’t wear the yellow scarf alone.

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