by Anna Gill
I like to think that behind every child is a community of people who are exceptionally proud of his or her achievements. Whether from family, teachers, churches, neighbors, or any others, children need to hear affirmation. They need to know that they are special and loved, just as they are. They need to hear the “You is kind, you is smart, you is important” mantra so often that they really believe it and live up to it. Now certainly, people often take this too far, as can be evidenced by “my child can do no harm” and “everyone is a winner” attitudes that don’t serve kids well in preparing them for real life. That said, I stand by my belief that when a child is doing something awesome, they need to be recognized for it!
Grandparents are some of the best people for doing just that. Ask almost any grandparent about their grandchildren and they will happily spout off all sorts of wonderful things about that child. Some grandparents even carry around a “brag book,” a small photo album that fits easily into a purse or bag, allowing them to show off their grandchildren to anyone and everyone who will listen.
I may not have a physical “brag book” to carry around, but I do have this blog, and for this entry it is my way to brag about “my kids.” I should probably note that I am quite happy not having children at this point in my life, and will likely remain so for some time. But here in Grenada, I have built close relationships with many of the children and youth in my community. “My kids” are my students in the after school class. They are the children in our Sunday School at the Methodist Church. They are the kids from the steel pan band, and they are the crew of boys that hang out at my house every evening. I am so blessed to have good relationships with so many young people here, so I hope you will indulge me and allow me to brag about why they are exceedingly awesome. =)
My kids are smart.
|Marissa is better at Concentration than I am.|
All photos in this story by Anna Gill.
|My students playing “Around the World” with the multiplication tables|
|Omari has a steady hand in building a card house|
They are helpful.
|Orion and many other kids help me with my baking and with my other chores.|
They are funny…
|What adolescent boy wouldn’t find this funny?|
|My friend Azaria is one of the fastest runners in the 200 meter sprint on the island!|
|I will challenge anyone who thinks they can find a cuter baby than Keyon.|
They are hardworking. (Okay, some are teenagers with obligatory lazy moments, but isn’t that normal?!)
|During the trash clean-up we did with the after school class, 15 students picked up over 2,200 pieces of trash in 90 minutes!|
They are considerate.
|When Kenrick returned my colored pencils he’d borrowed for a project, he had hand-sharpened each one using a knife.|
They love being silly for the camera.
|This picture came from a series of the boys arm wrestling, which they wanted me to photograph.|
And can we just take a minute to talk about how creative these kids are?!
|Omari is a talented artist- he freehanded this drawing of SpongeBob!|
|Kenrick built this cart out of wood and salvaged wheels from a baby stroller. He has since added solar-powered headlights and wired an on/off switch to it!|
|He also made a kite out of bamboo, thread, and a KFC plastic bag. Many children are in the business of kite making/flying at this time of year.|
|Xorion posing in front of the “gallery” of artwork in my kitchen.|
|The boys have come up with a way to play soccer on the tabletop using playdough for the ball and the containers as goals.|
|Painting Easter eggs in Sunday School|
|Love with some of the talented pan players|
I could go on an on about the awesome kids that have become my friends. However, I also don’t want to pretend that things are always perfect or easy with these kids. I love them all, but sometimes they drive me crazy. It’s taken time to teach the boys about how they should (and more specifically, SHOULD NOT) behave when they play at my house. One of my cutest little boys has very stinky feet. Sometimes the kids leave “surprises” in my bathroom (like toilet paper rolls dropped in a dirty bowl) and muddy footprints in my house. I went through some real trials with one child in our Sunday School because she were testing me and didn’t trust me right away. Not every piece of artwork hung on my wall is a masterpiece- quite a lot of it is rather mediocre. Sometimes my students are rude, and sometimes I lose my temper with them. They are not perfect, and neither am I.
I am learning many lessons about patience and unconditional love– lessons I hope to carry over into parenthood someday. I’m also beginning to see how God must view Christians. It is as if we were little children, running around thinking that our best efforts are masterpieces that will make God proud. And then we show off our work to him, and what God sees is the equivalent of macaroni artwork in comparison to all that he has created. We want to dance in from of him, just to make him happy, not noticing all the things we knock down in the process. God tells us we are beautiful and precious, even when he smells our stinky feet. Oftentimes we stubbornly choose not to obey when God is showing us a better way, instead creating bigger messes of our lives. We don’t like to listen to our spiritual teachers when the “lessons” are difficult. God celebrates each small achievement in our faith life, but still knows that there is so much more to learn.
The amazing thing about our God is that even though our best efforts are like child’s play to him, he still delights in those things we do out of love for him. We can never match up to the awesome, inconceivable greatness of God with our human efforts. Yet we shouldn’t stop trying. We should continue to work and create things for God’s glory. We should go to him for our affirmation. We should listen when God calls us his beloved just as we are, but also listen when he disciplines us so that we mature. May we fully embrace the knowledge that we are God’s beloved children, and strive to do the things that will make God proud.
Anna Gill is a mission intern with the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church, initially serving with GRENCODA, the Grenada Community Development Agency, on the Caribbean island of Grenada.
This post originally appeared in Gill’s blog Use the Faith You’ve Found. All photos by Anna Gill.