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Sticks and Stones

I volunteer in the kid’s ministry at my church. I’m the techie during our large group time and I lead a small group of 2nd & 3rd graders.

Not being a natural born teacher, my brain is usually scrambling to maintain a good balance for my little band of misfits:
1. Stay on topic.
2. Make sure each one feels welcomed and loved.
3. Have meaningful discussions.
4. Keep it fun and engaging.

With all that going on in my head, there’s not a lot of room for distraction. One off-the-wall question or comment makes me short circuit like a Fembot. Example: “Is it okay for me to ask God to make my brother have an allergic reaction to my PS3 so he won’t wanna play with it anymore?” The obvious answer is “yes”, but I shouldn’t tell him that.

This past Sunday as I was watching the kid’s finger paint go onto all the places I’d have to clean up later, I felt a tug on my sleeve.

“Mrs. Beth, can I show you something?” asked a sweet little girl I’ll call M.

“Sure,” I said distractedly, grimacing as a little boy put paint in another boy’s ear.

I glanced down next to me and saw M cradling a notebook with a penciled sketch. My eyes had flitted back to the boys running towards us with rinsed sponges in hand when M’s sketch finally registered.

Seeing as I make a fair amount of goofy faces during small group time, M’s depiction of my eyes is probably an accurate one.

My head snapped back down as I silently studied her work. I couldn’t help but say, “M, this is good.”

By her reaction, you would’ve thought I made all her wildest dreams come true. Her entire soul seemed to light up as she asked in wonder, “Really?!”

My smile had grown quite large. “Yeah, really.”

She showed me a few more of her sketches and tore my page from her book just as her name was called for pick-up. Then she turned and bounced lightly down the hallway; blonde hair streaming out behind her and huge grin still in tact.

The noise of children shouting goodbye sounded all around me, but my encounter with M forced me to sit down; lost in thought.

We’ve all heard the saying. “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Of course we know it’s a lie. Words have power over us—for good or bad. But I had forgotten just how much power they have.

In M’s case, it worried me to think of how close I’d come to wielding the power of words for bad. How would she have been affected by my careless indifference? If I hadn’t displayed genuine enthusiasm over her artistic endeavors?

Now I’m not trying to say that any words of mine will have an impact on M’s future.

Regardless; I’ve decided to act as if they all will.

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  1. DonnaB.

    Your written words are impacting my ‘present’.

  2. I heart you, and I’m sure M will never forget that sweet moment. Glad it stirred you, too. 🙂

  3. I love this story, Beth. You are one of the best story tellers and best writers we had at our table during the conference!

  4. Debbie S. Richardson

    Simply amazing……Yes, You!

  5. Beth,

    What an important reminder to not only watch our words carefully, but also to really be in the moment, especially with children. That’s something I’m working on currently, and this story just solidified my commitment to that pursuit.

  6. Beautiful. I can relate to the indifference side of things. I got far too much “constructive criticism” as a kid. Sometimes a kid just needs a compliment, someone to think they did a good job. Believe me, I remember the people who took the time to say something nice. They’re more rare than they should be.

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