They weren't overly concerned that I had not had my walk, that I had not had coffee and frankly that the Hubs was making me a yummy bloody mary to enjoy while writing this morning.
The energy was crackling. You could feel it vibrating off each of them, each of them needing just a bit more of something. Food, attention, validation, a morning hug, praise, a few just needing to matter. It has truly been decades since I've had a house full of pre-teen girls. Hubs and I were blessed for the gift. For the silly, chaotic joy they brought us.
Lately I've spent a lot of time focused on the word "value". On it's depths and meanings.
Many of you know I work for the Y. Another of my many blessings in life. As I have assumed a new role in the past few months I have been exposed to parts of my career that were vague and viewed through a smoky lens before. In the past few weeks I have been working with our Philanthropy group to identify grants for the communities we serve.
I love working for the Y, I love the ability to serve. It fills my soul. During one of our picture taking trips I felt my heart ripped out. I felt anger and disappointment. It was probably the first time the word value started ripping through my heart, my mind and my soul.
The playground these children were required to use during their school day was sad. Truthfully that is the summation of what I saw. Far beyond the fence was the green grass and open areas to run, roll and simply be. It wasn't were the children were allowed to go. Their domain was a large, dirty, damaged and soulless asphalt lot. Surrounded with a fence (for their protection?) broken benches unusable and unsafe for sitting on, basketball hoops damaged and laying haphazardly on the ground. The painted keys and hopscotch long since faded, only faint shadows showed where they had once been bright and vibrant.
How did those bright, energetic children, the lights of the future not feel defeated? Not feel less than? How did they feel valued?
The school is in a very poor neighborhood. Although I am finding that isn't the only place that kind of neglect exists.
I am pretty much starting to avoid social media and news. I am struggling with all the rioting, tantrums, threats, etc. I am struggling to understand how a country I love can be so close minded. I don't care who votes for whom. The color of your skin does not begin to matter to me. My only concern with your religion is that I have a basic knowledge so that I do not accidentally disrespect what you hold dear and that you afford me the same courtesy. Who you marry or spend your life with, again, not my concern, better question is are you happy? Do I believe in abortion, no, do I believe in your right to choose absolutely, it is not my place to make decisions for you. Do you live in a mansion or on the street, by choice or not? I don't feel that makes you a good person either way.
But value... it's missing...
How do you make another feel valued? How do you feel valued?
Earlier this week, I had to go see my orthopedist, the darn knee decided to misbehave again. She made me feel like a million dollars! The praise she gave me for my weight loss and the hard work that I had put into following her directions made my heart soar. I felt important to her, and I am sure she felt valued. She hadn't just given me directions to save my knee that I had ignored. Instead I had taken her advice. Advice that she had earned the right to give. And I had saved my knee. It will probably require cortisone shots yearly to maintain, but that is so different than a replacement. I valued her knowledge and advice, she valued me as a person.
There has been someone working hard to make our girl and grands feel less than. It's been ripping at our hearts. Hubs and I have felt powerless. Still do. But as my oldest sleeps peacefully upstairs in guest room. Hopefully catching up on the rest that she needs so badly right now. The grand and her posse are down in the man cave. The laughter, joy and singing drifting up the stairs makes my heart feel full. They are being silly. They are being 10 and 11. The five of them are giggling, snacking, jamming out. I will help Hubs clean it up when they go home.
I pray those small gifts of time, space and laughter make them all feel valued. I pray that the sleep my girl has needed is making her feel valued.
The clean kitchen this morning, the pot of tea roses and the beautiful card made my heart soar. She didn't have to, she did it because of who she is.
I can't help but wonder, if we all stopped demanding our own way. Insisting that because people think different, feel different, look different... etc... that they are not worthy. That they are not valued. And started valuing ourselves and others what kind of a difference it would make in this crazy mixed up world that we occupy.
When the child runs to the playground will it be safe? Will there be role models? Will the adults in their precious lives value them. Will they remember that not so long ago they were that noisy, clumsy, silly young person navigating life? And instead of being the barrier become the bright shining star for them?
When will too many adults stop making harsh, cruel demands that are designed to steal love and joy from the innocence of childhood.
As I was climbing the stairs to cook breakfast this morning one of those silly little girls, that hadn't slept all night, thanked me for opening my home. For allowing them to be kids. She told me how great of a mom my daughter is (I already know this!) and how much she'd loved having time with my grand daughter. That her mom and grandma would have never allowed it.
My question... why? I remember having so many kids in my home growing up. Our doors were always open to anyone that needed a place to be. I can't thank my parents enough for that gift. We learned that people just needed to be loved, that all the crap we use now to determine who is worthy of our time, energy and dollars just didn't matter. I was blessed from a very early age.
I only gave birth to two children. As they grew there were always so many children in our home, on our trips, surrounding us. I remember the forts, the messes, the laughter. Listening now to the beautiful music and young voices singing along, I realize that I might miss it occasionally in the silence that usually fills our home.
I remember dolls, legos, GI Joe, Pokemon, army gear for the raids outside, walkie-talkies, more pens, paper and secret notes than one can imagine. I remember joy. I remember "spats" where the parents all knew that before we were even aware of the "fight" they had resolved it and moved on.
We have to get back to that time. We have to start valuing people more than things again. I have unfollowed so much on social media, because I am tired. I don't want to hear anymore pouting. I want the people that I surround my world with to understand value.
A card, a call, a cup of coffee.
An honest conversation.
A messy child making breakfast, spilling without judgement, learning those messes are a part of growing up.
Or simply someone to sit by a fire and relax with.
I am tired of arrogance and anger. I am tired of hateful people trying to control others. I am watching it on a personal level all the way to a national, if not global level. Boycott this, don't watch that, don't buy that coffee, don't understand where that person is coming from. The tantrums, the myopic views, the lack of love or compassion. It's tiring.
Want to make a difference? Invite those children to all hang out together. Let them be children. Watch those beautiful friendships grow, nurture them. Be kind. Listen to them sing at the top of their lungs, smile at the cracking high notes and rejoice in the beautiful harmony. Let them express themselves with gentle loving guidance not mean, aggressive, judgmental words. Let them discover who they are without forcing your own hatred and prejudice on them.
My niece shared about watching a truck dropping of kids at school and delivering a cup of coffee to each officer on the way. Stop hating. Start valuing everyone.
Pick up that trash on the side of the road, who cares if you didn't drop it.
Maybe be more like Gandhi - be the good you want to see in the world. Use softer words, build up those around you. Hear their small voices, until they are strong enough to be heard by all. Remembering that it isn't always the child that is whispering. It might be the adult with too much love and kindness in their hearts that is being stomped on by the arrogant, mean and hateful bully. Be their strength until they are strong enough.
And it's okay to love that bully and pray for them. But be strong enough to tell them no. Because that "no" is the strongest form of love you can give. It's hard. It hurts. And yet it gives that bully the ability to become human.
More than once I had to use "tough" love with my kids. I don't know if they have figured out that it hurt me far deeper than it hurt them. I am thankful I was strong enough to do it. Because both of them are kind, loving, amazing humans! I am proud of the people they have become.
Listening to the sounds coming from my basement, I am going to say my beautiful grand daughter is well on her way to becoming the same exceptional human her mom is.
Take a minute to truly VALUE another... the life you change won't be just your own.