Updated: Jan 1
Photo courtesy of Leandro De Carvalho: https://pixabay.com/photos/phoenix-flames-heron-bird-2733938/
No one ever wrote a book about the little engine that couldn’t or the itsy bitsy spider who stopped trying. These two stories are about perseverance. And when you think about it, the heart of both is to inspire little humans to do hard things. They each teach children that if you give up without trying and expect things to be easy you might miss that beautiful view. And in the case of the little engine, not pushing yourself to get up that hill, might let down the people who need you most and most importantly you might let yourself down. And I think, now more than ever, we need these kinds of stories the way we need oxygen and water. Because hope, courage, and the belief that good things can and do happen are vital to a child’s spiritual health.
But what of the actual journey? How can children truly internalize the message that they can do hard things and that they have the strength to meet adversity in the moment? Is there a book for that? Well, sure. There’s the book I’ve written that delves deeply into bullying, physical illness and grief. It helps children learn those resiliency skills so vital to staying present and to learning how to persevere. I can’t guarantee a child with internalize all of the messages it seeks to relay. But, I do believe over time, children’s inner monologue can include messages like:
I can do hard things.
This is only temporary. Pain doesn’t last forever.
I can still find joy even if things aren’t the same.
I am not alone.
I am loved.
I can reach out when I’m hurting.
Milo is just the beginning
While I'm so glad I can contribute to helping children I am not so naïve to think that one book is enough. It’s a start. It’s a tangible thing children can touch, and see, and maybe even hold onto during these very uncertain times.
And I know from firsthand experience how powerful books are during dark times. To this day, I have a tiny book “Home is where the heart is” that saved my life. I don’t know how it came to me. But, I do remember holding it close to my chest at night when I was only 4 years old and I was missing my mother who was far away in a hospital. I remember how much comfort it brought me hearing the message that home wasn’t a physical place, but a place inside of you” and knowing that the love I felt for my mother was where I’d always be connected to her. You see? People think children don’t understand what’s happening or that they don’t know what loss is or won’t remember, but they do. They just don’t have the words yet. That tiny book helped to ease my spirit during those few months. And it shaped the rest of my life as a writer, creator and spiritual teacher.
Knowing you can no matter what
Each person’s ability (big or small) to build their internal strength comes from facing challenges and being able to learn, grow, and get back up. It comes from building that muscle inside of you that KNOWS no matter what happens you can and will be able to live again.
Right now, life is asking so much of our children. All over the world children are dealing with COVID-19 across a spectrum of hardship. Some are losing parents and grandparents, some may have the virus themselves. Some may be food insecure as a result of their parents’ jobs being eliminated. Or worse, some may be living in a homeless shelter due to eviction or foreclosure. As much as we’d like for children to never face adversity, and as much as science tells us that multiple adverse childhood events can cause long-term chronic health issues, there’s only so much we can control. While we can’t control the weather, illnesses, the economy or other people we can strengthen and sharpen our resilience and teach our children how to do the same.
In the wise words of Albert Camus:
“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”
And it is that “summer” that all children can tap into, if we can help them to learn to.
Happy Sunday everyone. Sending so much love!