It doesn’t come in a heart shaped box nor does it come in an envelope. It comes straight from the heart and it’s always at our fingertips.
My daughter received this card on her final day of working at a learning center for children with learning disabilities. She cared for kids that were in their teens on up to the age of 21, both male and female alike. Her job, and the center’s primary goal, was to teach the kids how to get along with others so they could thrive in their homes and in society. Group activities like computer time, exercise games and various art projects kept the kids engaged and focused while the staff taught them the politeness of sharing and the importance of patience with one another.
My daughter was supervisor to a group of 3-5 kids and, although they were a part of a larger group, she needed to focus on the kids that were assigned to her that day. Which is to say that not only did she watch over their behavior and keep them focused, but she also had to make sure that dietary needs were met specific to each child and their allergies at snack and lunch time.
She also tried to teach them the practice of good hygiene…I’ll never forget the time that I was in Target looking down one aisle for toothpaste. I heard someone talking on the other side explaining how to use deordorant! “Who’s that person talking to?”, I thought, and when I turned the corner it was my one and only Lovey teaching her kids about the importance of being clean. She had walked them over there, (the center was only 2 blocks away), as an excursion and learning opportunity which they were allowed to do.
My eyes filled with tears….she had them fully engaged with the kindest voice I’d ever heard come out of my daughter. I just didn’t know her this way…
But the times I remember most, (and thankfully there were very few), were the times when things didn’t go well for her and the kids. Maybe a child got mad and a bit violent and my daughter had to be strong and patient at the same time to get that child to calm down and refocus. Or the times that a new medicine, prescribed by the child’s doctor, didn’t quite agree with one of her kids and my daughter had to spend more than a normal amount of time in the bathroom with them. Yes, of course, her job included changing the girls diapers too.
I expressed my worry about those episodes, but her reply was always something like, “Don’t worry Mom, it’s my job to teach them and they’re learning..it may take all of my patience and energy at times, but think of what they go through everyday of their life!”.
At that moment I knew it wasn’t just her job…it was her heart. I felt ashamed to only think of my fears at that moment. She saw their inner struggles and knew she could be of positive service to them. So she practiced the art of resilience.
When she decided to move out of state and go back to school, after several years of working for the center, I made a comment referring to the fact that she could move on from the bad times, but she came right back at me and said something to the effect that the reason she wanted to leave the state, in part, was because she couldn’t bear leaving the kids if she was just across town doing something else. Deep down she knew that she had gained the trust and respect of both the kids and their parents alike and didn’t know how to tell them she would be leaving them.
I know I fell more in love with my daughter during those unconditionally giving years of hers more than she will ever know.
Life seems like nothing more than a series of “practices” so we can meander our way through it all, both the good and the bad. And the more we practice the better we get at it.
I may practice running to keep my heart healthy, but I remind myself daily to practice the art of giving love to myself and others in this world, unconditionally, the way my daughter practiced it with her kids.
How do you keep practicing?