The world is so very, very broken right now, is it not? People are doing horrible things to one another, saying horrible things to one another, manifesting some form of hell on Earth daily. I don’t think I’d get much push back on that. The human race en masse? We’re not handling life so well lately.
But then there’s also this. There’s most IMPORTANTLY this.
Today, at my school, hundreds of volunteers from a local church swept in and took our lives over for the day. They decorated the entire building in snowy, Christmas beauty. They acted as personal shoppers to our kids as each picked out brand new coats, hats, mittens, boots. They clapped as the little girls spun in front of mirrors, admiring their faux fur hood lined, beaming faces. They guided the crafting of pillows and ornaments, delivered pizza, sang ‘Let it go’ at a concert during lunch. They poured hot chocolate, colored pictures, and pushed on swings.
They loved my kids so well.
My small, resilient, grieving, exuberant, abused, malnourished, forgiving, imaginative, underprivileged, frustrating, lovable, beautiful kids.
I cried twice on the WAY to work thinking about it, but not as hard as I’m crying now recounting it.
Seven volunteers were specifically assigned to our class for the day. I watched my students hold hands with, get hugs from, laugh with, talk with, color with these people for hours. At the end of the day, I asked each student to share their favorite part of the day. Do you know what virtually every child said? “I liked hanging out with *classroom volunteer’s name*.”
It caught me off guard, you know? They’d just gotten all of these new winter clothes, coloring books, treats, and prizes from games and the thing they loved most about the day was the PEOPLE. It damn near literally broke my heart into pieces. All of that stuff took second place to someone genuinely caring for them, listening to them, CHOOSING them. It was the best part of my day, listening to one after the other share this out.
However, despite leaving with warmer winter gear, many of my kids still went home to their painful realities. It kills me daily that I can’t fix it for them. New mittens won’t fix it, sparkly garlands won’t fix it, and whatever unimaginable sum of money it cost to put on that kind of amazing production won’t fix it which, on the surface, can feel terribly hopeless.
For one day, those kids felt kindness from complete strangers. For one day, they didn’t have to work through academics when their minds are drifting to homefront issues. All day, through actions as well as words, they heard: “You are special, you are enjoyable, you are fun to be around, you are smart, you are funny, you are polite, you are important.”
Their realities didn’t change today but, perhaps, by the grace of God and goodness, their mindsets did.
Do you see what this means for us? It means, (despite the dire need for these actions), no matter how much money we give to charities, how many clothes we donate, no matter how many food drives we support, we actually make the most impact with OURSELVES. When we love others well, when we are present, when we listen, when we make it known we are choosing the presence of another, we are in tiny but powerful ways healing the horrors surrounding us.
Never underestimate the power of your presence and affection for people- familiar or unknown. You, as it happens, are your most valuable influence on the world’s brokenness, one person at a time.