“Safety” Through a Child’s Eyes

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Today I stared in the face of one of the many things 9/11 cost us as a nation. Who could fathom all of the long-term ramifications of that fateful day?

Seventeen years have passed, but when I think of September 11, 2001 vivid pictures come to mind. And not just pictures, but deep rooted feelings, including that soul clutching feeling of fear that crept over me that day.

My students wanted to talk about 9/11 today. I hadn’t planned to do so. Personally, I don’t like reliving it. I gave in to their pleas. We watched a brief video and talked for awhile. As soon as I got in front of the class to listen to their questions and comments I started to cry. I have no strong personal connections to anyone lost on that day, yet remembering still tears me apart.

As I looked at the faces of my sweet eleven students who have been untouched by a tragedy of this magnitude, I felt immensely sad for them because I realized something I had not thought of even though I have a child of my own the exact same age. These children born after 9/11 and in the wake of so many school shootings have never known a complete sense of carefree living. They have grown up with locked school doors, lockdown drills, sign out sheets, metal detectors and bag searches, and the constant reminder of “this is for your safety.”

As I reflected with them on my own childhood, the stark contrast became ever more evident. “When I was a kid, we just walked into Disney World. We didn’t have to be searched,” I told them.

“No way!!!” one of the girls exclaimed with wide eyes.

And that was the moment a shift occurred in me. I began to see the world through the eyes of the children. You see, as adults we lock the doors to help keep the kids safe and feel safe. But guess what? In doing so, we make some of them feel the opposite because they look at it from a different perspective. To them, it isn’t that they are safe inside but that there are possible scary things outside. Suddenly, the increase in childhood anxiety we have seen over the last several years makes more sense to me.

“I don’t ever feel completely safe,” one of my kiddos said.

And now I cry more tears.

I know not all of our children feel this way, but those that are more sensitive do. And that’s disheartening.

Today I experienced the importance of talking about these issues with our young ones. They need to be reminded that adults are doing their best to protect them. They need to feel the love of the big people around them and know that while not all of the world is safe, there are indeed safe people around. As Mr. Rogers so aptly said in his lesson to children in the wake of 9/11: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” We need to let our kids express their feelings, acknowledge them, and remind them that there will always be people to help them in a crisis.

There are moments over the last few weeks that it has been particularly wonderful to teach in a Christian environment. Today was certainly one of them. We took time to pray for the families of those who lost loved ones many years ago and to give thanks for the helpers that exist and for the hope that we have. By the end of the prayer I wasn’t the only one who had shed some tears in my room.

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The Price of Kindness

Have you ever had your kindness abused? I have. In fact, I have a particular friend that is the absolute kindest person I know and she has received her fair share of mistreatment over the years. She is always smiling, always encouraging, always helpful, and yet she has had people take advantage of her and be downright hateful. Some people are fake bubbly, but not this gal. She is the real deal, and my heart hurts to know that others have been unkind to her over the years.

I have always tried to be kind to others. Now, this isn’t to say I haven’t made my fair share of mistakes with people, but kindness has been my goal in life in general. The choices I made as a young girl/teen in school didn’t make me popular, but at least they made me generally well tolerated. If you asked a classmate back then how they would describe me, they would probably have said “nice.” I tended to befriend kids that other people wouldn’t. There were a few times my kindness actually made me a target of others’ ill intentions. Even now, as I have recess duty, I watch for kids who are being picked on or tend to be loners.

Recently,  I learned of a former student of mine who developed an eating disorder when she was in high school. This girl was beautiful, treated others well, and made the choice to be an excellent student and not party like some of her friends. Amidst doing the right things, she was ridiculed, ostracized, and made to feel “less than,” when in fact she was so much more. It is painful to make good choices, and then suffer for them.  We must remember that choosing to be kind is not always an easy choice. It will not always be favored by others.

Matthew 16:26 says, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” We may be able to gain friends, status, wealth, etc., by being unkind. The question is, what do we lose in doing so? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be kind and be able to look myself in the mirror than achieve the things the world deems important and be a jerk.

If you have kids, be sure they understand that kindness can come at a price, but it is a price worth paying. And, kids can be kind while not allowing themselves to be victimized. Even as adults we can find ourselves in situations where we wonder if treating others well is worth it. I wish kindness always reaped kindness in return, but sometimes that just isn’t the case.

“Kindness can become its own motive. We are made kind by being kind.” ~ Eric Hoffer

Blessings,

 

The Joy of Exhaling


Did you hear about the couple in California back in October that survived one of the wildfires by immersing themselves in their neighbor’s pool? For six hours, John and Jan Pascoe repeatedly submerged themselves to avoid the ash and flames. Luckily, their strategy worked. They walked away relatively unscathed, however their home and both of their vehicles were completely destroyed.

I have a hard time imagining what that experience would be like. I wonder how long they may have had to hold their breath at times, waiting for just the right moment to grab another chestful of air.

My husband, Jason, shared this story with me the same day he received news that his cancer may very well be in remission, and I have to confess that I immediately drew some parallels to our own lives.

Have you ever had a time where you felt like you were figuratively holding your breath? Maybe waiting on news of the results of an interview, final judgments in a competition, willing the pregnancy test to show positive or negative? Waiting can be so hard, and sometimes we are asked to do so for long periods of time.

December 19th, Jason and I made a visit to his oncologist. He’s reached the end of a clinical trial he has been a part of for two years. When his test results came back and one of the doctors told us that his blood work was normal, I felt myself truly exhale for the first time in six years. I’m not exaggerating. It’s like I had been unconsciously holding just part of my breath that entire time.

I think our experience mirrors this couple’s in many ways. For six hours they were up and down waiting and hoping for rescue. They watched things fall apart around them. They were at the mercy of the flames. For six years, we have had to tread the proverbial water. Each visit before the trial as the white cell counts grew we were holding our breath just a little bit more. Then, each visit after the start of the medication it would seep out ever so slightly as the numbers began to go down. We would suck a little more air in when side effects would pop up, or infection reared its ugly head. This sounds way more dramatic than reality, but the feeling is true, nonetheless.

There is so much uncertainty with cancer. Even when operations, treatments, or medications do their job, cancer still steals something from you. Your peace of mind is never the same afterwards. Just as this couple lost treasured possessions, there are things you lose with cancer that cannot be replaced. Peace of mind should not be taken for granted.

Maybe you are familiar with a popular Amy Grant Christmas song called “Breath of Heaven.” It is also known as “Mary’s Song.” Here are some of the lyrics:

I am waiting in a silent prayer
I am frightened by the load I bear
In a world as cold as stone
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now
Be with me now

Breath of heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of heaven
Breath of heaven
Lighten my darkness
Pour over me your holiness
For you are holy
Breath of heaven

The original lyrics were written by English songwriter Chris Eaton. Amy Grant got permission to rework the song to make it into a Christmas tune. Here is what she had to say about it: “It is a prayer that fits a lot of people’s circumstances, because it is a cry of mercy. Some nights on stage I can hardly get through the song for knowing all of the collective, unspoken pain of the lives in front of me. And so the words become my prayer for the listener and the reader, as well as the singer.”

In Job 33:4, we read, “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” In Genesis we read that God formed man from the dust of the ground and “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” In the book of John, the Bible tells us we must be born of the Spirit. The word Spirit can be translated as a current of air, a breath-blast, a breeze. Not only has God given us physical life, but we have the chance for him to breathe life into our very spirits.

It is for this reason that I cling to my belief in a magnificent Creator. There are times I may not be able to physically breathe, but I have something inside of me that gives me hope nonetheless, that keeps my spirit breathing.

God will not always answer my prayers in the affirmative. Through great research, good doctors, ideal circumstances, and a good physical match between the medication and my husband’s body he was healed this time (at least for now). When the breath of life is taken out of our bodies, or those we love, we can cling to the hope of the breath of heaven that can reside within us.

A few days after our good news I purchased this sign as a gift for Jason. We are looking forward to many more years together.

May you find yourself exhaling soon if life is hard or uncertain right now!

Blessings,