Mr. Statue of Liberty

 

“Hey, Mr. Tall Guy,” said one of the fourth grade girls. I guess that’s my universal nick name, since I’ve had everyone from the youth at church to college aged people at UH call me that. “You’re so tall,” she said, staring up at me. “You’re like a skyscraper. Like the Empire State Building. Or the Statue of Liberty. Can I call you that?”

“Okay,” I said.

“Which one do you like better?” she asked. “Empire State Building or Statue of Liberty?”

“Uh, I don’t know. You choose.”

“I like Statue of Liberty. Is it okay if I call you Mr. Statue of Liberty?”

“Sure.”

“Yay! But where’s your torch?”

“Right here,” I said, lifting up my walkie talkie as if it were a torch. “And here’s my book,” I said, holding my binder where we keep attendance and other papers.

Later, the second graders were coming up with their own nicknames for me. As they so often do, they surrounded me and bombarded me with questions and statements.

“You’re so tall. You’re like a building.”

“You’re like a jungle gym.”

“You look like a fun jungle gym.”

“Can I climb on you?”

“No,” I said. “My bosses will get mad.” We’re not supposed to let the kids play or climb on us.

“You’re so tall. Like a tree.”

“I want to climb on the tree!”

“I want to water the tree because trees need water.”

“I want to pick fruit from the tree because trees have fruit.”

“I’m gonna get my dog to pee on the tree because dogs pee on trees.”

 

One day one of the kids was trying to get my attention. “Hey, Robert,” he said.

“What did you just call me?” I asked.

“Oops! I mean Mr. Robert.”

“That’s better.”

A bunch of the other kids thought it was funny he called me by my first name, and started doing the same. “Robert! Robert!” they said.

I needed to restore order. “I’m your leader. Be respectful.”

Respect your elders. Yeah. I get it. I’m old. I’ve accepted and embraced it.

It’s okay when they make nicknames for me, but it has to be kept within certain boundaries. This is a school, after all. No calling me by my first name.

“The next person who calls me by my first name gets time-out for a week.”

The kids gasped and got suddenly quiet. Mary Ann, who had been quietly reading this whole time, looked up from her book and innocently asked me, “What’s your first name?” as if she really had no idea what my first name is.

“Robert,” I said.

“Oh…!” she said, sheepishly.  “I knew that.”

Pakistani Girl

Saw a story the other day on CNN about a 4 year old orphaned Pakistani girl who was unintentionally badly injured by U.S. soldiers as part of the War in Afghanistan. She’s been brought to America to have doctors perform surgery on her that will hopefully remove some of the scars, and fix her crippled hand.

God makes children beautiful. I love stories like this. It reminds me of when I was in Cambodia. The scars are disturbing, but beneath it all is just a 4 year old girl trying to live a normal life. Beauty isn’t something you see with your eyes.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/12/21/us/texas-drone-strike-victim/index.html?iref=allsearch

Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.

Psalm 82:3

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world

John 16:33

Merry Christmas!

Mean Girls

There’s a first grader we’ll call “Hazel.” Most of the first and second grade girls like me – sometimes too much. But Hazel is the exact opposite. She makes it very clear that she doesn’t like me at all, and seizes any opportunity to say mean things to me.

When the other girls say things like, “You’re so tall and strong,” Hazel says, “No he’s not! He’s weak!” She’s very critical of me. When we’re drawing, she’ll say things like, “Is that supposed to be a tree? I can draw a tree way better than that. It doesn’t even look like a tree.”

The other girls stick up for me. “Yes it does,” they say.

“It’s an ugly tree,” says Hazel.

“I like it,” say the other girls.

“Can you draw a picture for me?” asked one of the girls.

“Trust me, you don’t want him to draw for you,” says Hazel. “He’s terrible.”

One day Hazel glared up at me and said, “You’re boring.”

May, who was standing right next to her, followed her lead. “Yeah, you’re boring!” she said, grinning that goofy grin of hers.

“I’m so boring, is that why you hug me and don’t let go?” I asked May.

Taking that as her cue to hug me, she moved forward.

“No! No hugs!” I said. She looked at me with that dazy smile of hers. Apparently to her “No hugs” means “Yes hugs.” What I had said was, “Is that why you hug me and don’t let go?” And I think what she heard was, “Hug me and don’t let go.” Kids and their selective hearing. It’s not that I mind so much, it’s just that I couldn’t really do anything with her hugging me all day. I have a lot of other kids to take care of. I’d try to move and drag her around with me, but that wasn’t very effective.

The 1st graders liked playing Apples to Apples, and they would always ask me to play with them. It’s a good game for them, since it teaches them the meaning of words.

Hazel came over and asked, “What are you doing?”

“Playing Apples to Apples,” said one of the girls.

“Do you want to play?” I asked her.

“But we already started!” said the other girls.

Hazel left, and the other girls started talking about her.

“She’s mean,” they said. “She always tries to be the boss of us.”

“Yeah. I don’t like her.”

“I don’t want her to play with us.”

These were very nice girls who normally don’t say anything bad about anyone. But here they were, and they all agreed that they didn’t like Hazel.

“Hey, that’s not nice,” I said. “Gossiping is bad. She would probably be very hurt if she heard you saying that about her. Do you want to hurt her?”

“No,” they said, shaking their heads.

“You should always be nice, even to people who are mean to you.”

I like kids like Hazel. For one reason or another she chooses to be mean to people. There has to be some underlying reason as to why she does this. I think a lot of adults give up on the “tough” kids, the ones who don’t listen and give attitude. But I think it’s important to treat them the way you treat any of the other kids. Discipline when necessary, but never be overly harsh. You don’t know what kids like her are going through. They might not like you now, and they might give you attitude, but you never know when they might need you.

Powerful Hugs

Normally I’m not much of a hugger. It’s not that I dislike hugs. If someone hugs me, I’ll hug them back. I’m just not usually the one who will initiate a hug. I don’t know why. It’s just not really my thing. I guess I’m too stand-offish, and not really a touchy-feely type of person.

That being said, sometimes, when working with kids, I wonder if I have a sign on my back that says “hug me” because man, those kids are all over me.

“I wish you could live at the school,” said Yuna. “Then I could see you all the time!” As if seeing me for three hours every day weren’t enough.

We’re not really supposed to let the kids hug us. It is a job, after all, and we need to have some sense of professionalism. But I’ve seen the teachers, and even my bosses do it from time-to-time. And besides, some of the parents actually tell their kids to go and hug me before they leave. So I think as long as we establish boundaries, keep things professional, and make it clear to the kids that we are their leaders (not friends), then I guess a little hug now and then isn’t that big of a deal.

While I normally work with the 2nd graders, every once in a while, like during Fall Break, I work with the 1st graders. There’s one 1st grader who we’ll call “May.” Most kids hug, then let go after a moment. But not May. She’d come up to me, hug me, and not let go. I mean, really. She just wouldn’t let go.

“Okay…uh…May…we gotta go,” I would say.

She wouldn’t move.

“It’s snack time. Let’s go get snack.”

She still wouldn’t move.

“Don’t you want to go play with your friends?”

Nothing.

I would try to pull her off of me, but it’s like she had vice grip or something. She just wouldn’t move. Another leader would come and pry her off of me.

Kids at this age don’t know what personal space is. They’ll stand really close to you. Really, really close. So one day I was sitting down and Yuna was standing next to me. I stood up, and as I did the band of my watch hit her face because she was standing so close.

She started to cry, “Owwww…!”

“Oh! Sorry, are you okay?” Without thinking about it I hugged her, because, I guess, that’s the natural reaction towards a kid when they’re hurt, especially when you’re the one who accidentally hurt them. I hugged her, and she immediately stopped crying.

That’s when I discovered the magic power of hugs. Hug a kid when they’re crying, and 4 out of 5 times they’ll stop crying. Hugs. They make everything better.

“A child needs both to be hugged and unhugged. The hug lets her know she is valuable. The unhug lets her know that she is viable. If you’re always shoving your child away, they will cling to you for love. If you’re always holding them closer, they will cling to you for fear.”

Billy Graham