In these weeks, the re-entry, there can be some turbulence, yes? And not just for the kids. The transition of sending them back to school whether it’s the first time or the last—it can evoke all the same feelings. Those big hearts walking around wide-open exposed. We wonder if we have prepared them well enough.
I get it, I do— like the saying goes, having kids is as if our hearts are walking around outside of our bodies. When I first read those words by Elizabeth Stone, my boy toddled around with his head full of blonde curls. And now, as he goes off to his first year of high school, I still give pause to her words. They still apply all these years and four more boys added to the crew later.
Whether it’s the first time you’re sending them off with that backpack that almost matches them in size, or with deeper voices and longer limbs, it’s still true. For our big-hearted, feeling, world-changing kids, this transition isn’t as much about readiness of the things as it the readiness of their hearts. Will they know what to pick up and what to let sift through their hands? Will their gut tug at them while their mind tries to reason with it? Will they know when to let it pass and when to stand, even if alone?
They sit in their classrooms and notice every little detail. They can tell you how everyone around them is feeling. Maybe you first felt their keen sense of awareness when they kissed the bruise on your elbow or when they tried to put the fallen petals back on the flower. No one’s pain seemed to get past their eyes. Maybe they created something special for their friend before she came over to play. And as they grew so did their passion for global issues and social awareness. Maybe from the passenger seat, coffee drink in hand, they reached into their pocket for cash to give the mom and her kids standing on the corner holding the sign. The evidence of their noticing, a thread through their childhood, of a heart turned outward and accessible.
And if you too are a feeler, the noticing can be exhausting, taking it all in once through your eyes and again through theirs. I want you to hear this story of what a world-changer looked like as a child who felt it all. While I have read much about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I had yet to hear about this part of his life.
One evening he went out to watch a parade and his grandmother suffered a stroke and passed away while he was gone. He was convinced the stroke was part of his doing as she was unsure of his whereabouts. Her distress was so overwhelming to him, he jumped out of a window in an attempt to take his life.
I imagine him young, distraught, and full of grief. The pain of another was so great to him it became unbearable. And to think of the gaping hole that would have been left in all of humanity if his life had ended even earlier. It was in his noticing, feeling, and using it for good, that Dr. King changed the world.
I wonder what will happen to us if the world changers give up, if the feelers stop feeling, and the kind souls start to turn their heads away. I don’t think we have to imagine too hard these days.
I think the most damaging belief we can hold about these amazing kids is that somehow we coddled them and sugar coated everything and they are just unable to cope. Release that untruth. You know differently. You know it’s been there all along and you, exhausted and frustrated at times by their big ideas and big feelings, you won’t give up on them. You will help them through.
And that looks like staying, and it looks like strength rooted in who they were created to be and not in the fleeting opinions of others. I’m sorry they don’t get it and I know how easy it can be to entertain the fears and what-ifs. But don’t stay there, dear heart. They need us wildly cheering them on.
Let us share with them the stories that inspire.
Let us be okay with their big feelings and with ours.
Let us be grateful for eyes that see.
Let us help them sift through it all to find the treasure—whether it is to act or to let it be.
Let us model what wave to ride and what wave to stay still in until it passes.
Let us teach them not to pick up the words used at them when the words are said to make them feel less than or faulty.
Let us show them how to care for themselves.
Let us tell them all the beautiful, wonderful things that God says about them.
Let us give them freedom in the deep-down-rooted knowing they there is not something about them to be fixed.
Let us pray for people in their lives who cultivate them as they are.
It is true their heart, and yours, may walk around a little more scraped up and a bit more bruised, but it is beating, awake, and aware of what this world needs. And that happens to be just what changes it for the better.