Oh, you guys, if only you could have witnessed the anticipation in my house as my daughter and I prepared to attend the Secret Keeper Girls event being held at a church in our city recently. Weeks before, a group of some of my closest friends had conspired together to get tickets for our tween-aged daughters and we couldn’t wait to take our girls to this very special concert.
And I could spend this entire time talking to you about how amazing it was. How incredible it is that Dana Gersh has created this wonderful ministry and how much I wish that there had been something like this when I was a tween myself.
But, I’m writing today to talk about something that happened that night that was so small it was almost imperceptible. Something that probably no one else but me noticed. And something that was in fact, the most powerful part of my evening.
As we entered the venue we were immediately swept into all things tween girl. There was loud music, purple and pink decor, a photo booth and lots of giggling and squealing. After perusing the gift booth and chatting with friends, we made our way into the main auditorium.
We managed to find a row with enough seats for all of us and as the girls wanted to all sit together on one end, we realized that this gave we moms a great opportunity to do some chatting and giggling of our own. We shuffled into the row and settled ourselves in our seats and I found myself on the very end closest to the wall and farthest away from the girls.
We got settled in and I turned to say hello to the people sitting behind us and as I turned back I realized that my friends had begun a conversation. They were all leaning closer to each other and between the loud music and my position at the end of the row, I had no idea what they were talking about.
For a split second I felt kind of left out.
But that’s when it happened. Julie, sitting next to me on my left and leaning towards the other women so she could hear what they were saying, realized that I had stopped talking to the folks behind me and made the smallest of gestures. She adjusted the way she was sitting so as to make sure that I could be included in the conversation. A simple turn of her shoulder and a hand that patted my arm was all that was needed to let me know that I had not been forgotten. Soon enough, I was right in the thick of the dialogue and before we knew it the program was starting.
I’ll admit, I didn’t think much of it at the time. Maybe it’s because it came as no surprise that Julie would do this. And frankly, every one of those other moms sitting in my row would have done the exact same thing. Because that’s just who they are. They are inclusive. They are extenders. They are reacher-outers.
These are the women with whom I have chosen to surround myself.
There is nothing quite like the feeling of having someone draw you in. It’s a feeling I’ve come to distinctly recognize because so often I’ve experienced just the opposite. The times when there is no turning of the shoulder or reaching out of the hand. I’ve experienced exclusion, being left out and shut down. And not just as a young girl. These things happen to us as grown-ups too, right?
We all know that our kids are paying very close attention to what we do and say as parents. But, I think there’s another layer that we don’t even fully realize. It’s the layer of nuances. You see, I believe that there are things that just get absorbed into our children. The things that are soaked into their psyche.
Things like being quick to offer a smile. Asking someone how their day is going. Waving hello, showing interest, introducing yourself, turning your shoulder to make sure that the person at the end of the row is welcomed into the conversation.
It’s in these seemingly small gestures, these nuances of interaction where there is more power than we can imagine.
The other day at a school event, my daughter was sitting in a row with her best friend and some other girls. They were all just happily chatting away when all of a sudden, ALL of the other girls got up and moved together to another row away from my daughter and her friend. No explanation, no invitation. They just up and left. Later in the day, my daughter asked me why they had done that and told me how much it hurt. I couldn’t provide her with a good explanation. But what I COULD provide her with was sympathy, understanding and the opportunity for her to tap into those hurt feelings in such a way that it would make an imprint on her spirit. An imprint that would serve as a reminder to never do that to anyone else.
That night at the Secret Keeper Girl event, as the music blared and the girls began to flood the aisles and move towards the stage where they could all dance their little hearts out, we moms watched as our daughters asked each other if they wanted to go forward to dance together. They made sure everyone felt included whether or not they actually wanted to dance.
They’ve been watching us. Listening, observing. They’ve been given instruction and wisdom and encouragement. They’ve been called to task if we’ve witnessed them being exclusive. They’ve been reminded of the power of nuances.
They don’t always get it right. And, frankly, neither do we!
But, we’re trying. We’re praying. We’re watching closely and we’re talking with each other about these issues.
There’s so much in our world today that seems BIG and overwhelming. So much that is outside of our control. And it can be tempting to circle the wagons and hunker down.
But what if we were to fully realize the power that lies in those nuances? What if it’s in the smallest of gestures that someone will feel…
And what if you and I could do that for someone today? Let’s celebrate the small gestures and the little nuances my friends.
And, as always, thank you for meeting me at the fence today,
Dorothy A Terwilliger says
I could really feel this as I read it. Such a small gesture meant so much and the fact that we teach our children by example shines through in this story. Thank you for sharing.
Your article brings tears, Vanessa, and has made me realize that I might be missing something. I watch as my daughter, a beautiful 16 year old, gets left out and ignored on a daily basis. I begin to ask myself, “Is it jealously because she is very beautiful? Is it because she won’t take up for herself? Is it because she’s too eager to be friends with those who ignore her?” I listen to her recount the events of her school day and her hurt becomes my hurt. It’s so difficult to know what to say or do. Your article has made me realize that perhaps all this is preparing her for God’s will in her life and that I should encourage her to use these experience as a lesson in how to help others. Thank you.
At The Picket Fence says
Oh Angela, I’m SO sorry that you’re daughter is going through that. It sounds very similar (VERY similar!) to my own high school experiences and while I wouldn’t wish that on anyone I can honestly say that it really did prepare me and help me to be the kind of person who looks for ways to include others and be the one to extend. When I learned to stop trying so hard and being so eager to those who wouldn’t give me the time of day and channeled that energy into reaching out to others and just being myself it dramatically changed things. It’s so wonderful that she shares her hurts with you and I would maybe see if you could find some kind of devotional or book that she could read that would speak to this season of her life. You are an amazing mama and just keep on praying for her! xoxo
Doris Raab says
This is so beautifully said, and what a great Mom you are!
Sarah Braden says
This is so true and such a good reminder for us, Moms, too. I am thankful for your sharing and appreciate you starting this conversation with all of us!
At The Picket Fence says
So thankful for your friendship and that you are raising your girls to be reacher-outers! xoxo
Norma Rolader says
I love people that bring you in with little gestures and reach out to others … So many people these days do not do that it is sad
Love it. All of it. You have surrounded yourselves with worthy friends, and by doing so you are teaching your children well. Bravo. Love love love this post. ♥
This is wonderful, talking of inclusion. It does not always happen and is so hurting when left out. I was the one always on the outside looking in, always teased and left out and not invited. I live my life always being kind and accepting as I know the pain it caused.
Kim wilson says
I have never written any replys ever, but today as I looked at your beautiful home in the Christmas tour,I felt the need to. Your home is beautiful,but your words touched my heart. They reminded me of similar times when my parents who were not wealthy with 8 children of those own always and quietly helped others. My parents are gone now, but our families still carry on their valuable lesson. Thank you and have a blessed season
At The Picket Fence says
Kim, I’m just humbled and honored that you would leave a reply for me and so appreciate you sharing your heart with me. It sounds like your parents left a truly wonderful legacy and that you are doing the same in your life as well. Many blessings to you this Christmas season and I hope to see you back here again soon! Love, Vanessa