Well, that's a bold title. Yes, this somewhat nervous adult who as a child wouldn't talk to anyone is asserting that our thoughts about stranger danger should be re-evaluated. Is it true that there are dangerous people out there who you want to keep from interacting with your children? Absolutely! Is keeping them from talking to anyone the answer? Absolutely not!
Let me first tell you about me as a child. I was confident with my family but get me out with strangers and I would clam up, make a sour face, and hide behind my parents. Sometimes there was an audible grunt as I swished behind my mother's skirts in an effort to avoid people. My mother found this behavior unacceptable for obvious reasons. Most of these people were strangers to me but known to her. They were other church members, neighbors, and extended family who wanted to greet me. One of the many things I appreciate about my mother is that she listened to me and tried to understand me, so in this instance, she asked me with a sincere desire to understand, "Why do you act like this when people talk to you?" I explained that I didn't know what to say. Seeing a solvable problem my mom hatched a plan. She explained that most adults who wanted to talk to me were only being polite. They weren't expecting a deep discussion or anything other than just a polite response. The next step in her plan was to give me a script and role-play with me. The script was made up of the most common things peolpe said to me. She went over the conversation with me then we role played.
Mom acting as stranger: "Hi!"
Mom acting as stranger: "What's your name?"
Mom acting as stranger: "How old are you?"
Mom acting as stranger: "That's a pretty dress you're wearing."
By that point, the adult had usually ended the conversation with me and was back talking to my parents. She taught me the importance of talking loudly enough to be heard and looking at people. We read the Richard Scarry manners book which states, "Good manners make a person nice to know. "
So how does this apply today? How did it change how I raised Logan? Well, I should first point out that Logan is very outgoing and has been since he was little, but that doesn't mean he always knows what to do. We've always encouraged him to order for himself, ask a store employee where something is located, or greet neighbors. We believed that talking to strangers is important because it put Logan out of his comfort zone. How is this person going to react? What do I say? After watching him in action we have see it build confidence because when work happens outside our comfort zone, growth takes place.
Okay, okay - reign it in, Edy. What about safety? What about Stranger Danger? Talking with your kids about strangers and teaching them how to interact in the world is the safest course of action you can take. Let's look back at that conversation practice with my mom. The conversations we rehearsed for always took place with her nearby. I knew that she knew the person and that their main focus was not on me. If there was someone who was creepy or I found to be disturbing in some way, I would avoid them and she wouldn't make me interact with them. She didn't make me sit on people's laps or go with people I was scared of. The interactions we rehearsed helped me be safe. It also helped me learn to read people and their interest in what I have to say.
There was also an incident where our practice helped the whole family. One evening we were driving to Windsor, Canada for dinner at one of our favorite places. There had been several kidnapping cases recently so the border guards were particularly tough that night. They looked at me sitting in the front seat between my parents (this was totally legal in the 80s) and asked, "Little Girl, are these your parents?" My parents prayed that I wouldn't give my nervous stock answer to a question that wasn't on the script - a whiny, "I don't knooooooow." Fortunately for all of us, I said, "Yes," and we were on our way to dinner.
The worst thing you can do for your kids is to scare them with the idea that everyone in the world wants to hurt them. Depending on where you live, 99.9% of the people you will meet will be fine. Scaring them out of interacting with the 99.9% leaves children feeling anxious and alone, something we are seeing exponential increases in among today's children. Training your children how to interact with the good people will train them how to deal with the bad. The following are some ground rules you can lay out. I learned a lot of this from Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry by Lenore Skenazy. I highly recommend this book for all parents.
You can find excellent resources and and research that supports these ideas at letgrow.org. I would love to support you as you work with your child to be confident and connected to their community. Comment below with your thoughts!
If you have spent any time with me in the past six months, you will have heard me utter these words (teacher appreciation) at least 410,713 times. #sorrynotsorry I may have already told you this about me, but for the sake of clarification, I should explain that I am the head of my son's school's PTO. It's also the school I graduated from as well as the school I taught at. So I particularly enjoy serving in this capacity because it's exciting to serve the staff, some of whom were my teachers, those whom I attended to school with, and even those whom I taught.
This coming week (May 6-10) is national Teacher Appreciation Week and I want to explain what this week is all about. I served as a teacher of various subjects and ages for twelve years. Those years were some of the most rewarding yet exhausting of my entire life. Teaching isn't something I went into for the money or career potential. Teaching is a calling that I, along with many men and women find rewarding. Watching students experience that "ah ha" moment was the most exciting part of my job. I would spend countless nights creating lesson plans, buying supplies, and crafting a classroom dynamic which would all seem worth it when a student went, "Oh! I get it! That's so cool!"
Many teachers love their jobs and the "ah ha" moments are special, but all that work can lead to burn out. We are seeing significant burnout, particularly among new teachers. According to a 2014 study, 41% of teachers leave the profession after the first five years. Corporations run on billion dollar budgets while schools bicker over petty cash. In one preschool I worked in I had to defend my crayon usage to the director because of cost savings. Read that again. I had to defend my crayon usage. For three-year-olds. Who liked to color. Many teachers get tired of this nonsense and leave. Others can't provide for themselves on the salary offered due to student loans (all those increased needs for certification cost tens of thousands of dollars) and cost of living increases.
Also, teachers purchase many of their classroom supplies. Look around your child's classroom. Chances are that the posters hanging all over the walls, the fun, and fancy post-it-notes the students receive notes on, the colored dry-erase markers to help explain concepts, and the books in their classroom library have all been purchased by their teacher. The average spends $500 per year on school supplies.
Okay, those last couple of paragraphs were bleak. I apologize, but you must know the group you are talking about when I am making a case for really demonstrating appreciation. So how can you help? You can't fix the educational system by yourself, but you can help by celebrating the teachers around you. Search for "teacher appreciation ideas" on Pinterest and you will be overwhelmed with suggestions. Each teacher is different, but I would like to offer a few suggestions from a teacher's perspective on how to demonstrate thankfulness for your child's teachers. The following are some suggestions for things to do or gifts to give to teachers:
If this were paper it would be super shaky right now, but thanks to the convenience of technology you get to read something smooth and spell checked. Also, I'm not sure how I would get you my paper copy so let's just give technology a collective, "Huzzah!" I am writing this from the bus as we travel to Washington DC. The we in the previous sentence is my son and the rest of his 6th grade class, several parents, their teacher, and a few others. We arrived at the school at 4:00 am and left by 4:25 after taking attendance and picking up sack lunches for today's drive. Our first sight-seeing activity of today is to visit the Air and Space Museum in Langley, VA.
It is currently 6:50. From the time we left until 8:00 am the teacher has asked us to observe a quiet time for those who want to sleep. This is a great idea because it is hard getting up super early and sleep makes the drive pass quickly . . . unless you're like me and can't sleep on a bus. So far I've listened to some of Sarah Vowell's Lafayette in the Somewhat United States and watched the sunrise. Shockingly, as I write this I'm not feeling nauseous. Motion sickness has plagued me since I was a child. When I was little, I so wanted to read in the car. All of the sudden I would be making retching noises and my mom would be scrambling to find some kind of receptacle for the partially digested remains of my travel snacks and/or last fast food meal. Every time, without fail, she would be yelling, "Have you been reading? Have you?" At this point, I would be holding my hand over my mouth trying to hold "it" in and violently shaking my head. She would ask again but this time it was no longer a question, "You have been reading, haven't you?" Again, I would protest my innocence all while in great need of that bag. Usually, I was lying. Sorry, mom. I was board. I can't help but read when there's something in front of me. Needless to say, she tried her best to find other activities that entertained me while keeping me away from reading and she was good at it.
Taking road trips to visit family all over the United States was a staple of my childhood. Because TVs, VHS, and DVD players in vehicles preceded my time, my mom had to find other ways to occupy me. First, I had my cassette player with all my Patch the Pirate, Disney, and Sesame Street sing-a-long tapes. (Oh yeah!) She also had travel bingo and fun car games for me to play PLUS we would play the alphabet game and search for letters of the alphabet on signs to pass the time. Do you know how to play the alphabet game? It goes like this: The first person says, "My name is A___ and I'm going to A____ with a load of a_____." The next person takes the letter B and so on until you go through the entire alphabet. I don't know how many rounds of that game my poor parents went through before tiring of it, but I just loved it. Our other drive staple was playing the license plate game. Everyone works together and we search to find as many state license plates from beginning to end of trip.
At the time, I would have loved the opportunity to watch a movie to pass the time. The drive to Chicago, which we did often, would have been a two movie trip. But looking back on my road trip experiences, I'm so thankful we didn't have that technology. True, I was often board. During that time I would use my imagination, interact with my family, and observe the scenery around me. I would look at houses and wonder about the people living in them. It made me notice the world around me.
On this trip, Mrs. Black has requested that students refrain from using technology so they can focus on interacting with each other and absorb the trip. I love this policy and recommend it for school trips. Embracing my mom's mad road-trip skills, I've brought a big poster sized list of the states to check off for the license plate game, Mad Libs, card games, travel bingo, and a weaving project. Mrs. Black also provided a packet of activities for each student. Logan looked at it with vague indifference, but, of course, I squealed, "Competitive travel bingo! Yes!" There may have been some odd stares from parents around me. Get used to it, y'all. I'm easily excited. (If you are interested in these kinds of games, she told me she found them at Mom's Minivan.)
I'm so thankful for the opportunity to travel with my son and his class. I know we will have a fantastic time visiting the nation's capital, but will also I cherish the time spent building friendships and making memories too. So for now, I'm going to sign off of my computer and get to some good, old-fashioned road tripping fun. If you would like to follow our journey you can follow my story on Instagram @edy2207.
As I woke up this morning, I had a lot to look forward to. I had to bake my breakfast casserole so it was read for the Easter breakfast at church. I had to hide the eggs full of riddles that would lead Logan to a basket full of goodies. I had to get dressed in my "Sunday best" then head to church where we would worship with friends and family. I was hopeful.
Which made me think . . .
I thought how my excitement and hope sharply contrasted with the emotions of the disciples of Christ on the first Easter morning. They woke up feeling broken and sad. When I read Luke 23:56, I see one of the saddest sentences in the Bible, "On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment." While there's nothing blatantly sad about this, I'm reminded of all the Sabbath "laws" (traditions) broken by Christ. The Pharisees were often attacking Christ for his actions on the Sabbath. (Matthew 12:1-14, John 5:1-18, John 7:21-24) The disciples had grown accustomed to worshiping by following and learning from "the Lord of the Sabbath." He had taught and challenged them. Shown them incredible things. Stood against the religious leaders of the day. But now . . . he was dead. What now? Back to the law? Back to following the Pharisees?
On Sunday morning, the women woke with heavy hearts. They gathered the spices they had prepared and left to go toward the tomb. The other disciples were hiding for fear of the religious leaders of the day. I don't know exactly what they were doing, but they woke up feeling defeated, afraid, and hopeless.
But then . . .
The women got to the tomb and Jesus was gone. Outside were angels who told them, ". . . He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay." (Matthew 28:6) Confused and still lost, Mary left. I love the passage in John 20:14-16 which describes when Mary runs into Jesus but in her grieving and confused state she doesn't recognize him. He speaks. She still doesn't recognize him. Then he says her name, "Mary." Immediately, she knows. No one said her name like that. No one spoke with such love and understanding. No one knew her like that. "Mary." Oh, how her heart must have leapt.
As you go about the rest of this Easter day, remember the joy and hope that comes through Christ. Rejoice knowing that indeed Christ has risen. He has conquered death and removed its sting. Celebrating the Resurrection 2,000 some years later, it's easy to take that wild morning for granted or forget how amazed they were, but reflecting on their spirits before they knew always fills me with wonder and excitement for the Resurrection and the Savior.
Let's talk about community. This has become a bit of a buzz word. A popular idea that we throw out expecting that everyone knows what we mean. The problem is that not everyone does get it. This idea is, oh, so personal for me. I was really lost at one point feeling so alone and desperate for connection. Then some women who believed and acted out Romans 12:9-16 for me came along and everything changed. “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.”
One of the strongest human desires is to know that one is not alone. Numerous studies and examples have shown the dangers of human isolation. There have been a few tragic cases in which children were isolated from others during their formative years. Sadly, these children never learned to talk or communicate effectively and suffered without the benefits of human interaction.
“Ha!” you may say. “You love to be alone! You brag about days spent alone.” (I've posted multiple times about having a "me party" when Jason and Logan go on trips together.) Okay, you got me. I do love to be alone. I’m a proud introvert and not ashamed to proclaim it. Sometimes, I just need to be alone and refill my emotional stores and process the experiences in my life. I need alone time and that’s okay. What I have learned though, is that I also need people. I need fellow believers who will discuss the Bible with me and share my excitement for God’s magnificent greatness. I need fellow learners to talk about nerdy academic things. I need family to share stories with and laugh about our shared genetic traits.
Sometimes this interaction business can get messy. People have issues and as our lives interact those issues may intersect with your life. Other people’s problems may aggravate you or change your plans. Your friend’s controlling boyfriend just canceled the night out you had planned. Another friend flaked on coffee date you were looking forward to. You find out another friend has been talking about you behind your back. I’ve been so fed up with relationships and people that want to move to a mountain top and never speak to people again. Then I get lonely. So lonely. I’ve prayed for companionship and someone has come along and comforted me. Always God has been there showing me that I can’t be alone all the time.
Here's something else that's important to understand. Everyone has issues. Everyone. Think of the most perfect person you know. They’ve got issues. I promise. Everyone. Big and small we all have problems. Many years ago I thought that I had to be a super hero and carry all my own burdens. I didn’t like the thought of troubling others with my issues so I just held it all in. That was disastrous. When I arrived at Bible Baptist (our church when we lived in IL), a friend reached out to me and gave me the companionship I didn’t think I needed. She listened, asked, and provided much needed friendship at a time when I needed it most. She helped me bear my burdens. Lest you come to the conclusion that you don’t have time for the inconvenience of relationships, remember that you are called to “bear one another’s burdens.” (Gal. 6:2)
The idea of burden bearing can be somewhat confusing. We are each responsible for the burdens that are our own to bear, but we're also told to bear each other's burdens. How can both these be true? If I'm bearing my own burdens I shouldn't need help, right? Think of the packages that come in and out of your own house. Imagine asking your neighbor to help you with picking up one small grocery bag containing only a few items and bringing it inside. It would be ridiculous. You can handle that without help. Okay, now imagine the package to carry into the house is a brand new 70” TV. Alone, you could not safely get this into the house without either hurting yourself or damaging the TV. No. You can’t. Don’t try to be a super hero just to prove me wrong. I don’t have time for hospital visits at the moment. With this package you would need help.
This is how it is with our emotional burdens. Some burdens are your own that you should deal with and let go. These are like grocery bags. You bought the wrong kind of orange juice and your breakfast was disappointing. Grocery bag. The shirt you need for your work uniform got a giant stain on it and needs to be replaced. Grocery bag. Some burdens are bigger though. They are major trauma that you must talk through. You just got in a major car accident and are struggling with the emotional aspect of getting behind the wheel again. 70” TV. Your mom was just diagnosed with terminal cancer. 70” TV. Do not try to be a super hero and hold it together. Some try to hold it together for those they love. That’s stupid. If you have someone who is looking up to you show them that being strong means asking for help.
You need people with which you can share, laugh, and mourn. Friends with whom you can vent and laugh over your grocery bag sized problems will make your day's toil lighter and a week’s end refreshing. You also need a few people that can be there to help you carry in that 70” TV. Someone who looks at you and says, “No, you’re not,” when you tell them you’re doing fine. Someone who can cry over losses and deep sorrows with you and pray for you when you don’t have the words to say yourself. Someone who can be a champion of your hopes and dreams and encourage you to push yourself toward success.
I have good friends. Sometimes we don’t talk as much as we’d like to, but I know I can reach out when I am in need and they will be there. Moving has complicated things, but my friends and I remain close via the vast number of modern methods of communication such as text, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, snail mail, and telegram. (I’ve never really sent a telegram. I just wanted to see if you would read the whole list.)
Something one of those good friends taught me was to get to know others who are out of my intimate group of friends. She made it her mission to get to know other women in her church by taking them out for cups of coffee and getting to know as many of them as she could. Now it's your turn. This is my challenge for you. Below, you will find a PDF with a drawing of cups of coffee. Use the page to reflect on your time together. The cups are just to symbolize you getting out there and spending time with people, but you don’t actually have to go out for coffee. Invite someone out for dinner, a round of golf, an event at the library, anything you think the two of you would enjoy. If the outing is fun, plan another. If it is awkward and you recognize that this person and you are not going to be close friends then be thankful for the opportunity you had to get to know them better and don’t plan to ever hang out alone. But the important thing is to connect with others. Talk. Share. Live in community.
Challenge: Plan and go out with four different people.
1. Someone you are very close with.
2. Someone you were close with but haven’t seen in a while.
3. Someone you see regularly but don’t know much about.
4. Someone you look up to but aren’t usually able to spend time with.
Confession: I have been working on this post for a few days now. I planned to talk about the word hubris, and maybe I will someday, but after reading and writing for several hours, I have decided to go in a completely different direction. Has that ever happened to you? I thought I knew what I was writing about but as I studied and thought I realized that the material was diverging from my original thoughts. This feeling, though somewhat discombobulating (another great word), is what I love about learning. I was not incorrect in my original direction, but the opportunity to learn something new took me down an intriguing path. Come walk with me.
My grandfather was an artist by trade and along the way, he collected some interesting books about art. One of them is called Shepp's Photographs of the World. The copyright is listed as 1892. The good old days of 1892. Everything was better back then. Well, maybe not everything. There were no antibiotics. The country treated people of color with the understanding that they were lesser citizens. The life expectancy was 48.4. But it was an exciting time. Things were looking good for the United States. Grover Cleveland was fighting the spoils system and we were had not yet fought in the Spanish-American War so there was no need to, "Remember the Maine." The country was healing from the Civil War and figuring out a new path as a united nation. Rapid changes in the world filled people with wonder and optimism. The Bessemer process had revolutionized the steel making process and railroads were connecting people in ways that had previously seemed unimaginable. The publication date is almost the end of the Gilded Age, which I just learned because I Googled it, was named that because it looked like a Golden Age, but things underneath were less than perfect. (Thank you Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner for that excellent description.) Side note: I had learned that it was the Gilded Age but never grasped the meaning behind the term. Interesting.
Today's Word: Limn
One syllable. Pronounced [lim]. verb. Defined in the OAD as to depict or describe someone or something in painting or words. As I said, this word wasn't my first choice to write about, but as I was writing about Shepp's Photographs of the World I was quoting from the preface and came across this word which I had never taken the time to look up. Let me continue with my explanation about the book and you'll see the word come up in context.
My favorite part of Shepp's Photographs of the World is the preface. Most of the book is photographs of monuments, cities, and natural landmarks. There are some photos of famous works of art. The premise as explained in the preface is that few people will ever be able to travel around the world and see all the wonders it has to offer and even if they can travel, they won't make it to all the places to see all the things.
". . . a trip around the world, in the literal sense, would reveal to the traveler only a portion of its scenes of interest. Many of its greatest wonders lie off the line of circumnavigation and require to be reached by special journeys. To really see the world, one must explore it, seeking out spots to the north and south at every stage of the voyage " They mention that a newspaper reporter outdid "Mr. Phineas Fogg's famous flying voyage of eighty days," but continue on saying that a trip at this pace leaves little time for any sightseeing. The preface continues, "Fortunately for the public, the perfection of the art of photography . . . have rendered it possible to bring the whole world home to anyone's door in a manner heretofore unknown. The panorama of the world has been limned by the sun to such an extent that there is no longer an excuse for our remaining in ignorance of its most inaccessible or remote marvels. We can surround ourselves, in our own homes, with the scenes which intrepid and adventurous explorers have taken for us, often at the cost of their lives, and visit the great historic sites, the centers of strange civilizations, as well as the habitations of barbarous and savage tribes, without moving from our own firesides."
Since first reading it, I've loved the part where it says "the perfection of the art of photography" because this is 1892. Photography was far from perfected. But today I noticed that word limned and I realized that they are saying that the sun has allowed for the depictions of these great places. The sun. Because photography is light [photo] writing [graph]. Aaaaahhhhhh!!! Isn't that so cool!?!?!
Looking through the book I see recognizable monuments, but the descriptions are no longer accurate. For example, on page 159 the Eiffel Tower is described as "being the loftiest monument in the world." In the photo of the Arch de Triumph, there is no Tomb of the Unknown Soldier because that wasn't built until the Great War. The Brooklyn Bridge is described as "by far the largest suspension bridge yet constructed".
After perusing the pages and exploring from my house, I remember the admonishment in the preface to the readers of 1892 that there is no longer an excuse for remaining ignorant of the world around them because photography made the world accessible. If the 1892 audience has no excuse where does that leave the 2019 audience? I don't believe that photography or cinematography have been perfected, but they are beyond impressive. Most of us have access to the world at our fingertips. (If you have access to Google Earth then this is you.) There are also excellent documentaries and shows about the world that allow us so much access to the incredible and awe-inspiring. So as I close today, I give you (and myself) the same admonishment the author gave in 1892 - Surround yourselves with scenes which intrepid and adventurous explorers have taken for you. Visit the great historic sites, the centers of strange civilizations, as well as the habitations of barbarous and savage tribes, without moving from your own home. Travel is wonderful and I encourage it, but a lack of funds to travel does not limit the amount you can expose yourself to the magnificent world around you.
Influence is something I think about quite often. I thing about those who have influenced my life and the people I've influenced. We most often we use this word to describe the positive things that people add to our lives but really, influence is just having an effect on something.
The mind-boggling thing about influence is that you never know where it will go. If you let someone in during a traffic jam and give them a friendly wave, they just relaxed and smiled. That altered their day slightly and maybe they were a bit more forgiving when someone needed to cut in on them. Liberty Mutual Insurance made a series of commercials about kindness and showing care for others. In the commercials someone does something nice and is observed by someone else who then passes it on.
Unfortunately, this influence can also go in the opposite direction. If I start my day yelling at Logan, he goes off to school feeling defeated and frustrated. He may act unkindly towards a classmate passing on my bad mood and spreading it around his community like a virus that slowly eats away at the fabric of kindness and compassion the teachers attempt to build.
Knowing this, I try very hard to show kindness and compassion to all those I come in contact with. Believe me. I fail regularly, but I do make a concentrated effort to do so. This is part of intentional living. Knowing that I will influence the day of my cashier at the grocery store, I ask, "How are you?" and listen to the response. I might ask if the store is busy or if they've had a good day. One day the store was slow enough we had time to talk about Bible studies and I invited her to church. I may or may not ever see this person again, but I know that by showing kindness I have represented my faith, my life, and my being in a fashion that honor's God. Not everyone is receptive. Sometimes people are already having a bad day or they are distracted. That's okay. If you see this just behave politely and respectfully (both are forms of kindness) and move on.
Showing kindness in small ways usually has small results. Giving someone a smile you get a smile in return, but sometimes these kindness can compound and grow. Smiles can lead to greetings, which can lead to meetings, which can lead to friendships, which can lead anywhere. Opening your home to friends, giving to strangers, supporting the efforts of those you love, these can compound in major ways.
I'm currently reading Ron Chernow's biography of George Washington. Although I am in the very beginning of this massive work, I can already see the power of influence in Chernow's story. The first anecdote that caught my attention was one about Washington's mother, Mary Ball. She became an orphan at age twelve. A dangerous thing for a young girl in the fledgling colonies. She was taken in and gently cared for by a kind family friend, George Eskridge. She recorded that she named her first son in his honor. So George Eskridge and his life may be resigned to the oblivion of historical record, but his namesake George Washington is a testament to the power of kindness. Another example from the life of Washington is the influence of a British admiral upon his elder brother Lawrence, who owned an estate known then as Little Hunting Creek. Lawrence was so taken with affection for Admiral Vernon that he re-named his estate after him. Admiral Vernon may not be recognized in the history books, but visitors to Mount Vernon will remember his name as gracing what became the younger brother's beloved estate.
Do not be discouraged when your kindness is not returned immediately. You don't know the impact your gesture will make so just do the right thing and move on. I've sent encouraging letters and gifts to people and never heard back regarding their thoughts. (This really doesn't bother me. Once a gift is sent or given it is no longer mine to control.) Years later, when talking to the recipient of the letter, I discover that my letter is hanging in their room as an encouragement to them. That knowledge is immensely encouraging and shows me that God will use my work without me having to intervene or control the situation. When you do what you are supposed to do, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you," you make room for God doing the work.
I don't know how my small kindnesses will be used in the life of a letter recipient or the cashier at the grocery store, but I do know that God is working and he's called me to show kindness, so I will. Can you think of a time when someone's kindness directly impacted your life in a compounding way? Honor them by passing it on.
Our social media feeds have been harbingers of heartbreak. Sickness, divisiveness, sorrow, and death have become all too commonplace. My heart breaks for those suffering through all these circumstances and I want to fix it. To mend broken hearts and right the wrongs, but then I am reminded that this is not my job. Only God can restore and I am calmed by His promises.
Although I can't restore, I can spread love and encouragement by sending tangible reminders of God's love to people I love. In this distracted digital age a letter, an actual letter, is a special treat that fills the receiver's heart with love. So many people, especially those who are younger have never received a letter in the mail. In the words of Hannah Brencher, "They have never known themselves loved on a piece of paper."
I started letter writing after a friend shared Brencher's TED talk with me. In less than five minutes my world was forever changed. It's not about the card or the timing. It's letting someone know that they are cared for and that you thought of them. In my letters I like to include encouraging verses or quotes, cartoons, an article the recipient might appreciate, puzzles, stickers, etc. Addressing the envelope is also a fun way to express yourself and celebrate the recipient.
On April 11, I will be hosting another letter writing event. I would be thrilled if you could come share the love with me. Come and choose note cards and postcards to send to people you love. I have a wide variety of cards as well as goodies to send along with the cards. If you are interested but unsure of what to say, I have books with suggestions and lots of inserts to make the recipient feel special.
Cost is $5 to cover supplies and postage for two letters.
Lately, I’ve been trying to define some goals and gain some focus. I'm living digital, but there must be more. As I’ve said before defining my interests has always been a struggle, but nevertheless, I’m trying. I still want to explore other topics, but why? Why is bouncing all around and being random so prevalent in my life? The more I think about it the more one word comes to mind. Experience.
I love to experience things AND I savor opportunities to engage others in new experiences.
Experience is crucial to understanding. This is true of everything. How can someone understand the need for kindness? By experiencing kindness. How can someone understand the delicious flavors and sensations of a home cooked meal? By eating a home cooked meal. How can someone appreciate the joy of receiving a letter in the mail? By receiving a letter in the mail.
Imagine this: You want a friend to visit your favorite restaurant with you. Which of the following activities would most likely get them to understand and appreciate your love for the restaurant?
Understandably, it would be difficult for our kids to experience everything they learn about in the classroom during school hours. Complications would be numerous and be challenging to overcome. My experience in the classroom tells me that this isn’t a practical expectation for teachers or administrators to organize.
Proving children with experience cannot be one more thing thrust upon the classroom teacher to complete. Students need to spend time outside with their friends, with their families, and with their community. Visit an area museum, walk through a forest, tour a city. Many of these activities are free and require only small amounts of preparation but pay off in the opening of the child’s world with experiences that add value and depth of understanding.
As I walk through schools, stores, and restaurants, I cringe to see the large numbers of children hovering over their cell phones or iPad with their heads down looking into a screen. I worry that their worlds are shrinking. Experts tell us that being able to look up anything on the internet makes us less likely to do so. What’s that capital of Turkey? Who cares? I can look it up when I need to. (Read: The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains) That intellectual procrastination inhibits the curiosity that would stimulate the brain with the knowledge that Istanbul is a fascinating city with a intriguing history that would totally be worth looking up and remembering.
Why are we so willing to allow our children to become absorbed in screens? They are safe. They are quiet. They are under control. I hear you. When we are out to dinner it is very easy to hand over a screen to quiet the child with me. They become absorbed in a game or video and I can enjoy my meal and time with friends. I get it. Sometimes it can be necessary, but we take advantage of it.
Walks through the forest are messy. A virtual exploration of a Minecraft world is clean and tidy and leaves me with zero extra laundry. Trips to museums take time away from my time to work, clean, and relax. A day spent watching TV leaves me plenty of time to get my stuff done.
So what am I saying? Live in some screen free world and exhaust yourself entertaining your kids? NO!!! We need to live a life of intention that allows time for enriching activities.
Find a forest and explore. You don’t need to know what to look for. Just play. Dig. Look for bugs. Listen for birds. Then go home. Later, when their teacher is trying to teach them about a forest ecosystem they will hook the information onto their previous experiences and grasp the material that much easier. Go to a museum. Find a free one so you don’t feel compelled to get your money’s worth. Ask questions. Use your imagination. Laugh at something if it looks silly. Later, those experiences will provide a framework for your child's teachers to build upon and develop.
This link will connect you with places I’ve visited and recommend. If you have any questions or would like more information on something please comment below. Let’s enrich our lives and the lives of those around us with experiences that provide depth and meaning.
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Yes, okay. It is very unprofessional and definitely not grammatically correct to use all those exclamation points but this is a whole month dedicated to reading. A whole month! Dedicated to reading and books!!!! That deserves the use of gratuitous exclamation points if ever anything did. Every March, reading month is celebrated in schools across the country. Why March? Well, it's because Ted Geisel, Dr. Seuss, was born on March 2, 1904, and he made significant strides in encouraging children to read. If you want to know more about his contributions I would recommend Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel by Judith Morgan and Neil Morgan.
Anyway, schools across America will be doing all kinds of different reading programs to encourage reading among the students. Being a dedicated reader, this is a topic near and dear to my heart. When I was a first year English teacher I required the reading of the text book and possibly one outside book, but other nothing in addition. I was often asked by parents, "How can I get my child to read?" As my teaching progressed and I grew as a teacher, reader, and learner, I discovered that motivating others to read was more about leading by example than finding clever external motivations. Here are some things I learned along the way and have helped me grow reading programs and encourage life long learners.
Never stop learning, Friends!
"A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one."