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.

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?”


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

Generations Gap

The original recording of the song “White Christmas,” by Bing Crosby, was released in 1942 and is the best selling song of all time, having sold more than 50 million copies. My grandparents like the old singers, like Crosby and Sinatra. I like them too, but my favorites are bands like the Beatles. Though my grandparents weren’t that old when the rock n roll era started, they never got into it, and they don’t understand it.

“All young people care about these days is rock n roll,” said my grandpa. “They don’t care about the important things, like fixing the economy.”

My favorite version of White Christmas is the one done by the Drifters, released way back in 1954. While I like the original Bing Crosby version, I find the Drifter’s version to be more…I don’t know… catchy, upbeat, fun. It was, after all, used in the films Home Alone, and The Santa Clause. (Nice childhood memories.) But whenever my grandpa hears it, he says things like, “What is this? Who’s singing? The Drifters? They sure are drifting all right…drifting all over the place. Can’t sing like Bing Crosby, that’s for sure. They butchered a classic.”

It’s funny how this song, to me, is super old. I mean, 1954. Old. That was before my mom was born. Although I like oldies, even 1954 is old for me. While it may be old, I like it a lot. And yet, to my grandparents, this type of music is new, rambunctious, and unruly.  What a generations gap.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

This is one of my favorite Christmas songs. (I have a lot of favorites.) It’s a song that we hear all the time, and everyone knows it, but how often do we really stop and appreciate a song like this?

Written in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the song tells a story of unlikely protagonists “telling” each other a piece of important news: first the night wind to the little lamb, the little lamb to the shepherd boy, the shepherd boy to the mighty king, and finally, the king to the people everywhere.

Perhaps my favorite part of the song is the second to last line of the refrain. It occurs 4 times throughout the song, each time using different lyrics,“…with a tail as big as a kite,” “…with a voice as big as the sea,” ect. (The first time it occurs in the video I posted is at 0:30 – 0:34 if you’re having trouble finding it.) That last chord in that progression has a subliminally powerful affect on the song, in my opinion. I don’t know what it is about that part. Every time I hear it, I get chills. I just find it amazingly beautiful and mysterious.

Strong imagery is used throughout the song, “a star dancing in the night,” “a song high above the trees.” The song also uses some clever wordplay: the third verse suggests what we can bring to “the child” and the fourth verse flips it around, stating what the child will give to us.

On a final note, I find the king’s order in the fourth verse interesting. Regardless of what religion you are, or even if you’re Atheist, if everyone everywhere prayed for peace (Atheists can pretend to pray or something), we really would have peace. There can’t be fighting if everyone is too busy praying.

So do you hear what I hear?

2nd Grade Love Advice

There’s a boy in my group who we’ll call “Adam.” He’s a nice kid. Talks too much during study hall, and doesn’t always listen, so I end up putting him in time-out quite a bit, but overall he’s still a good kid.

Earlier in the school year some of the other kids started saying things like, “Adam likes Yuna!”

One day Adam and Yuna were walking next to each other. Yuna said something to him. I don’t remember what she said, but it wasn’t flattering.

Adam fired back. “Oh yeah?” he said. “I don’t like you.”

Some time later, as we were entering study hall, Yuna came to me and said, “Don’t make me sit next to Adam! He was digging his nose and playing with his boogers!”

Later, on the playground, I pulled Adam aside. I didn’t really know how to have this conversation, but I couldn’t just stand back and watch him suffer without at least trying to help him. “Adam,” I said. “Just to let you know…girls don’t like it when boys…um…play with their boogers.”

“I didn’t!” he said.

“Okay. I’m just…letting you know.”

More recently Yuna again said to me, “I don’t want to sit next to Adam!” She motioned with her hands that he’s the “nose-digger.”

“Yuna,” I said. “Stop being picky about where you sit. Besides I don’t think Adam does that anymore. ”

Play Time

One day my bosses made a rule that we aren’t allowed to play with the kids. The main reason behind this is it might distract us from watching them and making sure they’re safe.  So if they see us playing with them, they’ll fine us $5.

Later that day one of the kids asked if I would play with them. I explained that I can’t, and that I’ll be fined $5 if I do.

“Mr. Robert,” said Yuna. “Give me your wallet. I’m going to pay them 1000 dollars. Then you can play with us a lot!”

“Yay!” said the other kids.