“Ladies, please go to the left,” the ticket checker said as the long line of concert goers slowly made its way towards the venue door.
I was met by a female police officer who patted me down. Gloved hands glided along the insides of my legs, along my torso, under my arms, and ended with a thorough look through my purse.
This is how it will be now. I thought as tears unexpectedly sprung to my eyes.
All I could think about was my two daughters, age eleven and fourteen, both music lovers and one a music performer herself. All I could think about was the world they’d never know – the world where you’re safe to walk into an auditorium laughing uninhibitedly with your friends; the thought of not walking out alive never even entering your mind.
It was an emotional concert for me. The lyrics of Needtobreathe’s songs were even more relevant, more soul-stirring, more life-giving than usual. Sheltered in the dimly lit venue between family members, I did not even bother wiping the tears from my cheeks. These poignant lyrics from the song Wasteland struck a nerve:
“In this wasteland where I'm livin'
There is a crack in the door filled with light
And it's all that I need to get by
Yeah in this wasteland where I'm livin'
There is a crack in the door filled with light
And it's all that I need to shine.”
About midway through the concert, I received a text message from my 14-year-old daughter who was caring for her three small cousins while their parents enjoyed a night out with my husband and me. My daughter was reaching out because she was unable to console her distressed young cousin. Sleeping in a new place without his mother nearby was causing him angst.
I walked away from the loud music and called my daughter. She described all the things she’d tried to console him. I could hear the desperation in her voice when she finally said, “I don’t know what to do.”
I thought about saying we would come home.
I thought about telling her exactly what to do.
Instead I said, “Look at all the things you have done to comfort him. You have not left him. You have not given up. You can do this, Natalie. Now what do you think is his biggest worry right now?”
She thought for a moment. “Being alone and scared,” she said.
“Where do you think he would feel safer?” I asked.
After a long pause, she spoke. “I know,” she said with a hint of hope in her voice. “I could bring him upstairs to the guest room close to where I’m doing homework.”
“Great idea!” I commended. I assured her she did not have to get him to sleep, just provide comfort and have him rest until we got home.
Within thirty minutes, I received a text from my daughter filled with happy face emojis. Her little cousin had calmed down and fallen asleep.
When we got home from the concert, the first place my sister-in-law and I went was to the guest room where my sweet nephew slept. As we walked through the dark hallway to approach the room, I was taken aback by what I saw –
A crack of light coming from the darkened room.
We opened the door to find a little boy sleeping peacefully in the big bed. His beautiful face was illuminated by the glow of the nightlight my daughter had plugged into the wall next to him.
She thought of that herself.
She handled it.
She brought light to someone’s distressing situation.
And perhaps she would be one of the many children who will bring light to the troublesome state of the world, I thought. Thus, it will be important for me to avoid projecting my negative feelings about the world onto her. My colleague Sandy Blackard wisely points out that our emotional reactions to the problems our children face often come from past events in our childhood, as do some of our solutions, especially if we have experienced similar situations – exclusion, ridicule, fear, failure – when we were young. Our emotions can cause us to miss important details about the situation our children are facing and influence how they experience it.
Sandy says that in order to support our children and remain open to their solutions, it is important for us to step from sympathy (feeling what our child is feeling) into empathy (understanding what our child is feeling and thinking). Instead of offering advice, understanding their point of view on the situation will allow us to play the more important role of a supportive coach, helping them figure out their own solutions. When an empowered child tries something, even if it doesn’t work, he or she is more likely to try again.
To help our children figure out what will work for any problem, Sandy suggests we start by finding out what they think the problem is. That way, their solutions will address the “right” problem– the one they feel ready to address.
Sandy’s advice took on a whole new meaning a few days after the concert. My daughter and I were on a walk one evening when she mentioned how a classmate made a political statement through an article of clothing. The statement was divisive and hurtful to some, and my daughter noticed the hurt. She thought about the problem and decided that confronting the individual would not be helpful – but reaching out to one of her alienated classmates would be. So that is what she did. She recognized the need for inclusion and acceptance and thought it could improve the situation. And it did.
The crack of light.
She thought of it.
She handled it.
She brought light to someone’s distressful situation.
As I look at the current state of our world, I see so much work to be done. I see so much pain, hostility, and unrest … but my child sees something I don't.
She sees opportunity to step into a role she was born to fill. I must be mindful not to cloud that view with my negative perceptions or emotional baggage. By routinely striving to see her point of view on problem situations—I will be able to fill the important role of loving encourager, steadfast believer, and light protector.
This whole experience has got me thinking.
What if we collectively assumed this supportive role for the next generation? Just think of the possibilities.
Where we see walls, they will see a way to build bridges.
Where we exclusion, they will see a place to open circles.
Where we see scarcity, they will see enough to go around.
Where we see darkness, they see a chance to shine a light.
I see things differently than I did at the concert that night.
While I was mourning the world my children would never know, I was failing to see what the world could become through their capable hands and hearts.
They are the problem solvers; they are the out-of-the-box thinkers; they are the hope revivers.
Now I know.
They don't need my sympathy.
They don't need my tears.
They don't need to be rescued.
They need my support, my encouragement, and my belief.
Has there ever been a greater opportunity to build a more loving and unified world?
I don’t think so.
And we have the privilege of raising the generation who will build it.
Let’s see the world's problems through their hopeful eyes.
That crack in the door is about to become a flood light of hope.
Shine on, precious children, shine on.
You give me hope.
Dear friends of the Hands Free Revolution, three important things for you:
- Thanks to all who requested the “You Are Enough” cuff after reading my poem on the Hands Free Revolution Facebook and Instagram page. We currently have a limited number in stock today, but our amazing bracelet maker is making more! Click here to order now.
- In just over three weeks, I will be speaking in Ann Arbor, Michigan at a Girls on the Run fundraising brunch on Saturday morning, November 18. If you live anywhere nearby, I would encourage you to come as you are! The events I have participated in this fall have felt truly magical. Each event has provided us time to catch our breath, be renewed, and make meaningful connections. My favorite part of each event is talking personally with each attendee. Click here to register for this event. I can’t wait to see you, Michigan!
- Simple Year 2018 is shaping up to be a life-changing experience! I am one of 12 simplicity authors who will be sharing wisdom designed to help you create the time & space you need to thrive & grow throughout the 12 months of 2018. Each month you’ll focus on what matters most with a simplicity advocate that specializes in topics like clutter, food, money, relationships, & busyness. Along with inspiring and informative articles that will come right to your inbox, there will also be a live webinar each month where you can connect with the authors, ask questions and meet other people seeking to simplify their lives. Early bird registration is open now through November 14. Get all the information you need to know by clicking here.Thank you for walking beside me on this journey. I cherish you.