I heard Margot Starbuck, author and speaker, say something last week at the UrbanPromise International summit that really resonated: “What we are saying to kids is, ‘I know who you really are.’ I see you I hear you I care for you. No matter what the outside looks like.” No matter what foolish choice you made, I thought. No matter what barriers you erect to protect yourself. I wrote down this quote in my notes and followed it with…”and you know they have heard you and felt your love when they allow you to look deeply into their eyes.”
It made me think of my most recent experience of teaching developmental skills to the sophomores at UrbanPromise Academy. Of how the first week I was the stranger and the walls were up; trying to get a meaningful answer was like pulling teeth. But gradually as the weeks have passed there has been a growing acceptance and even appreciation of the class and of me. They are letting me in as they learn that I am trustworthy, and honoring me by sharing their stories.
And further back thoughts of April, a young woman whose mother abandoned her at birth. When I met her almost 3 years ago now she told me straight up that she would never love or trust a woman in her life. It took two years of persistence – of staying calm through troubling news, of showing up consistently, and of spoiling her a few times on outings! Now she calls me ‘Mom’ and wants me to walk her through the college application process. Her 3.2 average in school shows her self-respect, as does the way she carries herself.
The little ones let you in quickly. I was the mystery reader in Kindergarten on Thursday and most of the class let me look deep into their eyes. Then there are the 5th graders in cooking class – an even-keeled bunch with only minor guarding. By middle school and especially high school though, meaningful looks that reveal vulnerability are hard-won – and deeply satisfying when they arrive.
My last note from Margot’s talk is, “And there’s not one thing I want to change about you.” Because God created you to be exactly who you are. How powerful would it be if every child – every person – knew that deep down? That’s some serious healing. Perhaps that’s the essence of being well.