“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” As kids, we said these words a lot. Deep down, we knew they weren’t true, but they somehow made us feel better in the midst of an argument. Early on in my parenting, I was given a book called “The Blessing” by Gary Smalley and John Trent. Essentially, the book was written to encourage parents to take seriously the effects that spoken words have on children. I learned a lot from that book. I have great kids, but like all children, they drive me crazy sometimes! Since I read this book, I have been more careful with what I said and thought about my children when I was irritated, annoyed, or just plain mad! Years later, I still think about the principles in the book and try to apply them. As a mother and teacher, I know that verbal praise and encouragement can in most situations change the course of a said behavior before it has the chance to destroy a moment.
The truth is, the children in Kenya are never far from my mind and never out of my heart. As I go throughout my day, I think about the children I know by name, those I know by smile. There are times when I long to scoop one up in my arms and plant a blessing in his heart. Just a spoken word of love to remind him that he is loved by an amazing Father. To plant seeds of value and hope.
I love how, when I am in Kenya, I can walk through the compound at PEC and hear these words. Sometimes from a teacher, most often from Samuel himself. Words of blessings that encourage a child to reach for God’s best. Words that place value where the world of hurt and poverty cannot. Individual words that encourage one to stand out from the masses and change the world. I once heard a quote that went something like this “no one as young as us has ever tried to take power, but we are just crazy enough to believe we can; and we will do it!” This came from the movie Amazing Grace where the determination of a guy named William Wilberforce changed the policy for England’s handling of slavery. Words of blessing play a critical role in a person’s belief that he has a purpose and can accomplish that purpose.
Last summer, the youth at Grace Adventures Day Camp took our kids on as one of their service projects. Knowing that the kiddos love stickers, they took name tags and filled them with blessings. Words such as “beautiful, loved, and valued.” I was the lucky one that got to put these stickers on the kids in Soweto. The day we “stuck” them all up, we had just as many kids from the surrounding neighborhoods as we did the school. We stuck them ALL with these blessings! Yeah, I know these were just stickers, but it was so fun to hear them run around reading the nametags to each other. To see the beautiful smiles as a friend read “valued” and “loved.” That night as I “tucked” in the kids that board, I noticed that these tags were stuck on the walls and bed frames in the dorms. I prayed a silent prayer that our Father would see to it that each child had the chance to really understand that he is valued, loved, and priceless. Thanks to the servant leaders at Grace Adventures Day Camp, thanks to those who have traveled over to speak these words, thanks to you who give so that these kids have a place to learn their value, thanks to Jesus who gave the ultimate gift so that ALL may have value to our God.