The eleven-year-old sixth grader got into the car, slammed the door shut, and sat in silence. I tried to make conversation but she clearly was not having any of it. In silence, we drove to pick up her two younger siblings from their school. When we all arrived back at their house, she ran up to her room and shut the door. I walked upstairs and paused outside her room. I could hear sniffles; the evidence of a crying teen. As the nanny, I was unsure what to do next.
I started to walk back down the stairs, deciding to leave her alone. Then I paused and asked myself a question: What kind of person do I want to be?
I knew in that scenario I could walk downstairs and leave her alone, and it would end up being fine. She would survive whatever experience had disappointed her. But I also knew that I could take this opportunity to be the kind of person I want to be. So I turned around.
I knocked on her door and gently opened it. I walked over and sat next to her on her bed. I rubbed her back and asked her what was wrong. Through her tears she told me that she had worked so hard running for “office” at her school, and had lost.
As the nanny to these children, there were a lot of really hard, awful days. There were not a lot of days where I felt like I was good at my job, and I rarely felt like I connected well with them. But with her, that day – I knew I had succeeded. I knew that it had changed things.
We have these moments in our lives, all the time. We are constantly faced with decisions. We are constantly asked the question, who do you want to be?
They don’t always seem like a big deal, but they are the small ways we change our lives. We have this ideal in our head, don’t we? Of the person we will someday be? We don’t just arrive there all of a sudden. It takes slow, hard work. It takes dedicated choices. Taking significant, meaningful steps towards becoming who we want to be.
Sometimes it happens with my students, like when I have a conversation that leads to them realizing exactly what it is they want to do with their one, wild life.
Sometimes it happens in my small group, like when we celebrate someone really well or sit and listen to someone’s struggles really well. I think to myself, Yes. This is what we are supposed to be doing. We are doing this right.
In our world today, we need to pay attention to these little moments. Our cultural moment requires that we take every chance we get to show love and kindness. As Christians we need to take seriously the call to care deeply for our neighbor.
Slow down enough to hear that still, small voice that urges you towards empathy and understanding. Be slow to speak, quick to hear, slow to anger…(James 1:19)
I’m not excellent at this. For every story I could share where I have succeeded, I would have ten where I have failed. But we aren’t expected to be perfect, we are just expected to try. We can always be trying to be agents of redemption. To be kind and caring to people, whether they are like us or not.
No, I have not always succeeded at this. But I will always remember that moment with a middle schooler where I chose to be the person I want to be.
What kind of person do you want to be?