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Tiny Birds, Hard Days, and Little Girls Who Hold Hearts in their Hands…

I’m sure that when writing this weekly blog, I repeat myself. In fact, at times I wonder if most everything I write seems redundant, as specific themes and lessons seem to consistently fill/cloud my thoughts. I apologize for the repetition, but I am also aware that each lesson I learn from the things that seem to happen time and time again is unique and an important part of my never-ending struggle to seek truth, and kindness, and hope while keeping my faith.

I have mentioned several times that I’m clumsy. I don’t mean that I trip and fall daily (unless it’s in the metaphorical sense), but I have been known to display my lack of grace from time to time. And it always seems to be when I have a large audience! Fun times!

From having the hem of my dress tucked under the bottom of my “shapewear” (which thankfully were the short style and not panty-cut), to having the heel of my shoe drill down into the soft ground at my son’s wedding, I’ve had my awkward moments. I like to think it’s God’s way of keeping me humble. And it definitely does.

Generally, when I think of a clumsy person, it’s not always in the physical sense. I envision someone who sort of “galumphs” through life, dodging pitfalls, and potholes, gaining confidence, only to have it stripped away, as they trip and fall just short of the finish line.

We don’t always see the clumsy, awkward, brokenness of others. Many times it’s introverted—hidden away from our sight. It’s only known to those hurting individuals who torture themselves with the idea that they are worthless.

We have no way of seeing or understanding the internal battles or demons that people live with, but as a counselor, that’s my job. To bring those struggles to light, and provide guidance, support, and encouragement.

I have a tough job. I don’t mean in the sense that I’m overworked, or have insane deadlines, or endless paperwork. It’s none of those things. But in my job as a counselor, clumsiness, awkwardness, heartbreak, and abuse are revealed. I get a glimpse into the very personalities, hearts, and souls of young children and teens, and many times it’s exhausting, overwhelming, and sometimes devastating.

But I knew what I was signing up for when I sought a degree in school counseling, so please don’t think I am in any way complaining…

I have heard, and seen, and witnessed things that are unthinkable. As the individual layers are peeled back, and scars and secrets are revealed, I have been immersed into the reality in which many children live. And it’s a far cry from the fairy tale world I experienced on Rosa Lane, and Chimney Rock Drive in my sweet little hometown in East Texas.

For the most part, I am a hopeful person. I remember when a close family friend and teacher was struggling with the terminal illness of her son and she said, “Where there’s life, there’s hope.” Since my junior year in high school, that thought has always remained in the back of my mind. For what do we have if we don’t have hope?

Maybe that’s how I am able to deal with the information I hear, and the little hearts and minds that I have the the responsibility of forming and shaping, hoping to make them feel whole.

It’s exhausting, but mostly heartbreaking, and is summed up best with this thought:

I’m in no way calling myself a hero, but I wholeheartedly understand the challenge of waking up everyday and trying to love in an unlovable world. I believe it’s part of my job description to remain positive, faithful, and hopeful that the time I invest in young lives, will in some way make a difference. I’m a counselor, but I’m also a gardener—-planting seeds of hope that, God willing, will one day come to fruition.

It’s hard to believe that two weeks ago we were covered in a six-to-eight-inch blanket of snow. The past week has been warm, with clear blue skies and sunshine. My kind of weather. As I think back to the drastic change in temperature, and the ease of my life when there aren’t any clouds in my sky, I remember the tiny little birds who were foraging around in the snow, searching for food, fluffing their feathers out for added warmth, and working tirelessly to make the best of their current situation.

We spent many hours watching these tiny little feathered friends. We threw out seed in the form of hope that they would all survive, and remain in our yard to chirp and sing during those beautiful spring days.

A few days into Snowfest 2021, when I let my dog Lorelai out one morning, I realized that not all the birds would see the sunshine and flowers of the Spring. When Lorelai returned to the back door, I didn’t notice the tiny tail and feathers that were hanging out of the left side of her mouth. I did notice that she ran straight to our bedroom, and slid under the bed, something she does when she brings in a twig, or stick or other form of forbidden contraband. Under the bed is the place for stray socks, acorns, and house shoes; a safe place for Lorelai to hide her stash.

It seemed that her time under the bed was unusually long that morning, so I got a flashlight (since we had no power), and shined it on her. And that’s when I discovered the tiny, lifeless bird beside her. She wasn’t trying to eat or tear apart this creature. Lorelai was trying to warm it up. She knew something was wrong, and she was trying to protect and hopefully revive this victim of the extreme cold.

This exact scenario happened at least three more times during that week. Each time Lorelai went outside, she walked the perimeter of the fence, and almost every time she found another casualty of the snow. Not all the birds made it to her place under the bed, only because we were now mindful in paying attention to her re-entrance into the house.

Just as grandparents believe their grandchildren are perfect (because they are), I think my dog is the best being I know. She has a happiness that shows in her face. She has a zest for life. She can cut through all the pretenses, and knows when I’m hurting or sad. During those times, she doesn’t leave my side. She is my constant companion, giving me sloppy kisses, and reassurance that no matter what is going on in the world, or in my life, she loves me.

I firmly believe that Lorelai was trying to “fix” these birds. She wanted them to wake up and love the world again. She had hope.

Last week, I had the misfortune of giving some devastating news to one of my young students who I see for weekly counseling. This little girl has experienced an enormous amount of “loss” in her very young life, and I was the giver of more bad news.

When you see this child, you would never know the hurt she has endured. She is beautiful, and always smiling. She is sweet, and kind, and curious, and has a zest for life. And against all odds, she remains hopeful.

Knowing that the news I gave this sweet baby was going to crush her, I grabbed a stress ball from the desk drawer which is filled with counseling “goodies.” I have a wide variety of shapes and sizes and colors. There are some that look like baseballs, and footballs, and others look like smiley faces. As I rummaged through the collection, I found the perfect one. It was red and shaped like a heart. It had eyes and a big smile on it, too.

I stuffed it in my jacket pocket, and went on my way to deliver the life-changing news. After I dealt her the blow that caused her to burst into tears, and shake uncontrollably, I handed her this stress ball. The heart, with the eyes and the smile. I explained that while it was made to relieve stress, this little red heart had another purpose.

I told her that each time she looked at that heart, I wanted her to remember all the people in her life who love her. I wanted her to look at that heart, and feel our love. I know it was unfair, but I put a lot of responsibility on this little red stress ball. It’s job was not only to be a stress reliever, but to give this young soul hope.

Several days later, I emailed this sweet little girl’s teacher, and I asked how she was doing. The teacher replied, “She is doing better. And she has been carrying around her red heart everywhere she goes.”

When I gave it to her, I knew that little red heart couldn’t make this precious child’s life better. But it was a symbol. A tangible, concrete reminder of love, and encouragement. A reminder that she has all kinds of people in her corner, rooting for her, cheering her on. All of us hoping she has the life she deserves.

On that day, when I was the bearer of bad news, I was reminded that while I can’t change or fix individuals or situations, I can plant seeds. And through encouragement, and consistency, and support, those seeds will one day bloom.

I understand I can’t control everything after the seeds are planted. But that is my role. To plant, and encourage, and maybe even witness the growth of those seeds into beautiful flowers which bloom in the Spring.

Although I don’t always get to see the end result, I have to keep doing what I do. Even when it’s hard. Even when it’s unfair. Even when I feel it won’t make a difference. No matter the season or the reason, I have to keep being the Planter of Seeds. The giver of hearts…

So as I reflect on the past couple of weeks, and the lessons I’ve learned, I am reminded that even on the worst days, when bad news is delivered, and lives are forever changed, I must cling to hope.

Just like Lorelai, and tiny birds, and little girls who hold hearts in their hands…

 

 

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