This I Believe

Jennifer - Poway, California
Entered on January 29, 2007

I believe every child should have at least one adult in life that “lights up” in his or her presence.

When I was a young girl, my parents were missionaries in Madagascar. Since there was no kindergarten for me to attend, I spent my 5th year following my parents around in their busy lives. I have vivid memories of time with my father. While he was busy running a boarding school for children of English speaking Lutheran missionaries, I was busy watching him do it. There was nothing grandiose about any of it; most of it was bookkeeping, shopping, managing a large staff, and leading worship. I suppose the delicious part was that I was allowed to participate. My dad would give me tasks of counting money (which he had surely already counted), or straightening books, or accompanying him to the market. He never made me feel like I was in the way.

In my teenage years, back in the U.S., my father was a Lutheran pastor. His odd work schedule meant I often found him home when I got out of school. When I walked through the door, he was always happy to see me. I really felt like his moments were a little brighter when I arrived, like he had been waiting for me.

Now that I am the mother of two school-aged children, I have to wonder if he was really that thrilled to have me (and possibly a few friends) come tumbling through the door to shatter his quiet, mellow space. But, it doesn’t matter what he felt, really. What matters is how he made me feel. In his gift of inviting acceptance, I found a place to safely grow. And now, at 37, I am still safe in his presence; he still makes me feel like he is happier when I am with him.

We humans thrive on acceptance. We work so hard for it. All too often, we sell our souls for it. Imagine a world in which each child has at least one person who helps them to feel valued and accepted. Imagine. Love for free. Grace. Nothing to earn or prove. In a world of young men and women willing to do nearly anything to avoid rejection, I believe we would see dramatic change if each one of them had just one person who sparkles in their presence.

In my classroom, I try to be that person. What if I am the only person who looks Sarah in the eye that day? Or, what if I am the only person who noticed that David was absent for 3 days straight? What if my classroom is the only place Tommy feels accepted all day long? If that is the case, it is my privilege to be the one who lights up when they walk into my room….even if I am exhausted. I guess I learned how to do that from my father. Because it doesn’t matter how I feel, really. It is how I make them feel.