can you hear me?

I believe that everyone has a need to be heard.  Why do you think so many update their tweets, facebook status, and blog about what they’re experiencing and feeling?  Because really, you’re only writing to yourself, hoping that someone reads and responds.  Yup, and I’m one of them!  I believe no matter quiet you are, every human being wants to be heard and understood.  And this is no different for children.  I was up one night last week, and I was flipping through the channel (as I usually do late at night) and I came upon a rerun of Oprah.  I’ve always had love-hate relationship with her and the show.  But that’s another story.  Anyhow, what caught my attention were two kids that were sitting on her couch crying.  It was a show on her most memorable guests from the past 25 years.  Apparently Daisy and Kris were on her show back in 2007 as 11 and 7 years old respectively.  They were with psychotherapist M. Gary Neuman talking about their feeling about their absent mom.  Kris, in his quivering little voice, said that he had bought his mom a fake diamond ring so that she would come back to him and his sister instead of going away with her boyfriend.  As he started crying, I found myself crying along with him.

4 years later, Daisy and Kris were back on the show, and it’s obvious that the hurt is still very deep in their hearts.  Daisy tells Gary, “if—when—I have kids, I’m not going to leave them. Even if we get a divorce,  I’m still going to celebrate their birthdays and pay alimony. I’m not going to leave them there to suffer. I know how that feels.”   Gary went on to say that the best way to value children is for them to be heard.  I thought about this for a while.

I think there are many ways to value children.  I agree with Gary that one way is to really, really listen to them.  I believe even the shyest child has something in his/her heart, and wants to be heard.  How often do we take time to listen to what kids have to say?  In your home?  How about in your church?  As Kidmin Director, I’ve always been trained to communicate with leaders, staff, volunteers, and parents–to hear their concerns and thoughts.  But no one has taught me to listen to the kids.  Over the years, I figured out that kids have a lot poignant and important things to say than I had given them credit for.  Kids know what they like, kids can tell you what they’ve learned, and kids know why they like or dislike coming to church. In addition, when you talk to a child or two, you can better understand what’s in their hearts:  their joys and their hurts.  Afterall, isn’t ministry to children about MINISTRY?  not just fun programming…

If we want to really shape and grow a great kids ministry, I believe it’s important for these children to be heard!  So parents, children’s directors/pastors, volunteers… spend some time talking to the kids that are in your care!!!  Let them be HEARD!

when mother’s day hurts…

I will never forget the third Sunday of June of 1994.  I was in college, and few of us had volunteered to lead kids in Sunday afternoon program.  We had decided to do a special project on this Sunday… probably the most popular craft that is done on this day every year… A TIE-card for Father’s Day!  We probably thought we were brilliant to come up with this craft (haha… if we had only known how many people thought they were brilliant to come up with this craft all around the country!)  As we passed out the cut out tie-cards, a third grade boy with the cutest chipmunk face you’ve ever seen looked up at me and said, “Teacher Gloria, do you have a dad?”

I felt blood rushing to my face… how could we have been so insensitive to this kid?  We all knew that he had lost his dad not too long ago…  The rest of the conversation went like this:

Me:  You know what?  I do have a dad… but you have something I don’t have.

G:  What?

Me:  You have a mom…. I don’t have a mom.  I have a dad, but you don’t have a dad.  Why don’t we go to that bench and talk?  You don’t have to do this craft…

(and I don’t remember the details of the conversation that took place, but I remember learning a lot about what it means to minister to kids, how God used my past experience to talk to this kid, and it was even healing for me.)

I was only 8-years old when my mom came into the room to pray because she had a huge headache.  I was eating in front of the television (some things never change…) when the phone rang.  My dad had been on a trip with our church pastor to acquire our church’s first van.  I told him that my mom was praying, and that I shouldn’t disturb her.  My dad called back 30 minutes later.  He said that he really needed to talk to her, so I put him on hold and went to get my mom.  I shook her, and she didn’t move.  I felt panicked all of a sudden, and told my dad that my mom wasn’t moving.  He hung up.  I felt super-panicked.  I sat next to my mom for what felt like hours (in reality, I have no idea how long I had been sitting there).  Every so often, I would shake her–no response… My dad came home, and immediately picked her up and took her to the hospital.  10 days later, I was at her funeral.  My mom had passed away of aneurism.

I only knew my mom for 8 short years… but she’s had profound impact and influence in my life!  I have heard countless stories about my mom from those who knew her and loved her.  Since I had lost my mom so early in my life, so  many people stepped up to play “my mom.”  I’m forever grateful to both my grandmothers and all my aunts.  They were all there for me every step of my life!  They did a fantastic job of filling in for my mom whenever necessary… and on Mother’s Day, I got used to writing 4-6 cards instead of just writing one…  but some years, all I wished was that I could just write ONE Mother’s Day Card to my REAL MOM…

In elementary school, when we had to do projects for mother’s day, I just quietly did them with the rest of the class.  I would bring it home to my grandmother.  Actually, I don’t even know if my teacher knew that I didn’t have a mom.  Although I felt sad at times, I didn’t let it get to me… I just did what I had to do… and I probably lived a huge chunk of my life just doing what I needed to do…

However, G’s question “do you have a dad?” forever changed how I do ministry.  I have become a lot more sensitive to those kids that may be hurting because they don’t have what other kids have… I started to share the hurts in my life with the kids that I minister to so they can know that my life isn’t perfect and they have someone who understands…  and I DON’T force projects/activities on kids but I try to understand why they don’t want to participate… You never know what hurts and baggage kids carry with them… and I understand that some of these hurts never go away…

Now all three very important women in my life (my mom and both my grandmothers) are all in heaven partying with Jesus.   I’m blessed to have had so many “moms” that cared for me… and I still have my aunts that care for me like a mom, but mother’s day is never an easy one… because even 30 years later, all I want to do is write ONE Mother’s Day Card to my REAL MOM…

If you minister to children, please be sensitive to those that are without a mom on this mother’s day…

with few of my moms: my mom, grandma, 2 aunts, great-grandma (and also my dad & uncle)