A chance encounter this Sunday led to this post – and it wasn’t even my encounter. My husband told me how he and the Engineer met an old acquaintance from our former church. She wasn’t just any acquaintance though, she was the bedrock of the Nursery ministry – the volunteer who was there all the time. My kids loved her, and she played a vital role in helping them conquer their separation anxiety. In fact, we appreciated her so much that my husband made sure to take the Princess back to the nursery (she had graduated out of it) to tell Ms. Peggy goodbye when we left the church.
While they chatted, it came out that she no longer attended church there either. My husband asked why because she was so involved and critical in the volunteer program. Her response made me sad, and it set off the thought process that would become this post. She said:
“I didn’t feel appreciated.”
She hit burnout. She gave until she couldn’t give any more, and no one bothered to refill her batteries with thanks and appreciation. That’s sad. That’s frustrating. That’s a critical failure in leadership.
I’m not writing this to judge our former church: that’s not the point of this post. No, the point is that I feel guilty. Sure, we thanked her. We routinely told her how much we appreciated her help – and I was there with her most of the time too with little Mr. Destroyer who wouldn’t let mamma abandon him. Still, I feel like we could have done more. Shown her more love. Thanked her more for what she did, and how much she helped our kids.
I’m sorry for that.
So here and now, I’m making a choice. A conscious decision to change how I do things. From now on, if someone shows such love and grace to my children, we’re going to show them love back. That can take many forms – a little gift card, a craft the kids made for them, a handmade card. Something concrete. Something they can look at and smile, thinking of how much their work is appreciated.
Love isn’t words. Love is action.
It’s sad that unconditional, accepting love is rather rare. Most of us don’t even experience that with our parents, judging from the comments I read on forums and groups. So when your child finds someone who accepts them for who they are, supports them, and tries to help them succeed – hang on to them. Don’t let that person go. Don’t let them burn out.
The people who do this for your kid might not be in your church, like ours. They may be a coach. A teacher. A family member. You may be lucky enough to have many people who are your child’s own personal cheering section. That’s a gift. A blessing.
And while you’re thinking about this, don’t forget yourself. Your significant other. You matter too – and often it’s up to you to make sure that the other person knows that they’re appreciated. I know a lot of people hate Father and Mother’s Day, but make an effort to nudge the kids into doing something special. If they’re young like mine they may need assistance.
The kids always make handmade cards for Father’s Day, but this year I suggested something a little different. Instead of 3 different cards, we did 3 pictures. They each drew or painted something they thought their dad would like (seriously Princess, he wants a spider picture? Ok … ) and then I sat them down and asked them some questions. Things like “what’s your favorite thing to do with daddy?” Or “what do you love the most about daddy?” They told me, I scribed it.
Then I forced – yes forced – him to reluctantly take a picture with each of them together. He hates having his picture taken.
I took all of this stuff, and I made a little book with it. I did a section for each child, and added some pictures of them, their picture with dad, and the things they made for him. And I wrote a short little letter thanking him for being such a wonderful dad. The kids got a sneak peek before he did and loved it!
A gift like that is personal. It’s permanent. He can take it out 10 years later and read it with them, and smile about the silly things their younger selves said. It’s concrete appreciation and love.
So Ms. Peggy, if you happen to read this, I’m sorry. I’m sorry we didn’t help you feel appreciated. I’m sorry we didn’t do more. And I promise that we’ll do better. I’ll demonstrate love in action so that my kids will learn what it looks like, and they’ll do better too.
We can all do better.
Thank you for loving my child. Thank you.