“And why, pray, should I go for a useless walk now– or any time, for that matter?” he demanded sharply. David had shrunk back unconsciously, though he had still smiled.
“Oh, but it wouldn’t be a useless walk, sir. Father said nothing was useless that helped to keep us in tune, you know.”
“I mean, you looked as father used to look sometimes, when he felt out of tune. And he always said there was nothing like a walk to put him back again.”
–Just David, by Eleanor H. Porter
Kids are people, too.
Three and a half years ago, I typed a blog post, ranting just that. That kids are smart, that kids are funny, and that kids are important. That we are missing out if we leave relationships with children up to the teachers and the moms. Kids are people, too, so I wrote as a full-time nanny, before I became a primary teacher in New Zealand and came to live life here.
Three and a half years ago? Seems a short time, in the scheme of things. Yet some of the people who have come to mean so much me in this past season– couldn’t string sentences together then, couldn’t put one foot in front of the other, or weren’t even born. Yet in three and a half months, I come to know these people– and they are some of the people I am most loathe to leave.
Kids are people, too.
They hurt. They want to know if you are leaving on an airplane. They want to have something tangible to hold on to when you’re gone. They want to remember you. They send you videos on iMessage when you’re in Australia for a two-week visit, stuttering shyly, “I wike– I wike you, Kay-wa,” and they flick texts full of love-hearts and stars. Kids are people, too. They yell at their sister and start crying, only to discover in a prayer time is that the real problem is that they miss their nanny, their cousin, and their grandparents– and hadn’t ever stopped to notice it. They light up when they connect to people they love who are spread across the world. They grieve, they cry, and they laugh– all in the ways I am learning to.
Kids have hearts, too.
Were you ever told this as a child? That your feelings mattered? That you had a heart, too? Or were you patted on the head, ignored? Maybe all adults ever told you was “Oh, you’re so cute!” or “My, how you’ve grown!”. I laugh, because I made an inward vow as a child to never tell a kid that when I got older. However, when I was recently in Hawaii after two years’ absence, I found myself shocked at how the kids I used to babysit were now “hanging out” like middle-schoolers do! That’s when I had to remember they were people, still– and instead of watching Elmo’s World together, it was now conversation about historical fiction and promises of Starbucks dates. Despite the time lapse, the principle was the same: spending time together, caring about their heart.
And so, faced with the reality of leaving New Zealand soon, leaving half a dozen families that are full of my friends (despite the age gaps)?
I’m reminded that I have a heart, too.
A few weeks ago I found myself shrinking back from telling Keana and Eva that I was going to do DTS in Australia, and no longer going to be their teacher for this year. For the past three months, I have tutored, lived life with, and learned from these two sisters– fellow YWAM kids that combined, make up a good portion of the United Nations. The world is our home, quite literally. BTI’s mantra “you teach who you are” became a reality, me passing on little pieces of the healing Jesus has brought in regards to this global identity. But in our devotion time one morning, before I told the girls about DTS– the Father lovingly reminded me, I will protect them. My responsibility was to follow God, and it was His to take care of their feelings and emotions of grief.
Yet I was so consumed with fear that I would hurt them in the same way I was hurt as a child, growing up in a transient YWAM environment– people leaving, yet forgetting to tell me, forgetting to keep in contact, forgetting I existed. Usually this was for the simple reason that I was “just a kid”. But kids have hearts, too.
“You have to let them go, Kayla, you have to forgive them– all those people
that promised to come back to you
It came as a surprise to me– as unforgiveness in my own heart has seemed to come in the past three months. I was hurt by that? I’ve marvelled in so many one-on-ones. So often in the past, as a self-protection mechanism I would ignore that I was hurt by someone or a situation. Or, I would try to forgive someone without first realising how I was affected emotionally (I’m fine, right?). A good decade of this and I was pretty clueless to what my heart was feeling or needing. Yet surprise, when I started going back to how I actually felt, not being afraid to be honest? Oh, I remembered that when friends– no matter their age– left and never came back? It sucked.
I rationalised it for most of my 21 years of life, set the good of YWAM life above the pain. However, my mind being temporarily patched didn’t stop the deathly fear seeping through– I feared following God would harm the girls whom I had come to love. Yet, this story wasn’t only about them. It was my own heart that needed healing, too.
It hurt, [names that I had long ceased to think about], when you left and promised to keep in touch but didn’t. I felt like I wasn’t worth enough to be bothered about when you weren’t with me, I felt devalued and unloved– And then? As soon as the hurt is in full view– when I least want to forgive– here needs to come these words: I forgive you for your lack of love, for breaking your promise… I release you from my judgement, no longer hold a record of wrongs against you, and give you to Jesus.
And He never leaves us empty, as Matt and Cora remind me after every time of forgiveness.
“I will give you friends that you can count on,
that will always come back, and that you will see again.”
As I face my last week here in Tauranga? It’s a lot easier to part ways. Oh, trust me, it’s still hard, there are still things to grieve– but the pain feels different now. Not fearful and treacherous, but instead– the satisfied ache of a heart that has loved well. For some, me leaving to DTS will be a goodbye, and I may not connect often again. Yet for the relationships like I’ve built with the families here in this city? It’s going to be this:
See you again.
I can count on that (and with the way our global worlds collide, I won’t be surprised if it’s in a different country). I like that very much.
“He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.”
Yep, kids are people, too.
“Oh, but it wouldn’t be a useless walk, sir.
Father said nothing was useless that helped to keep us in tune, you know.”
Photos: Knick-knacks around my room in Condor House, April 2015. Easter with my Tauranga family, April 2015.