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Am I Invisible? The Pain-Relieving Response to Being Rejected or Excluded

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My fifth-grade daughter started a new extracurricular activity a few weeks ago. We’re still learning the ropes and aren’t quite sure how things run. On the first day, we walked up to two women who were waiting with their children for the activity to start. I politely asked them a question about protocol and explained we were new.

I was met with annoyed facial expressions and curt answers.

Following that response with an introduction seemed inappropriate so I turned to their children and introduced myself and my daughter to them. We talked with the children until the class began. The following week, I saw the women again in the waiting area.

“Hello,” I said warmly. “How are you both doing today?” I received mumbled replies and they immediately turned back to each other and continued talking. My daughter and I talked to each other which relieved the painful sense of feeling invisible.

Last week, as my daughter and walked up to the activity, I saw the women in their usual spot. I felt a twinge of something I couldn’t explain in my stomach. It was not a pleasant feeling – perhaps anxiety, embarrassment, awkwardness? Whatever it was, that feeling made me feel like not trying anymore. I stopped my daughter several feet away from the waiting area and suggested we watch some games going on.

That is when the best possible result that could happen from this experience occurred.

I said, “Remember this.”

Remember this when you are in familiar territory and someone new walks up looking for guidance.

Remember this when you see someone on the outskirts anxiously holding her own hand.

Remember this when someone approaches you and asks a question – see the bravery behind the words.

Remember this when you see someone stop trying – perhaps he’s been rejected one too many times.

Remember this when you see someone being excluded or alienated – just one friendly person can relieve the painful sense of feeling invisible. 

Remember the deepest desire of the human heart is to belong … to be welcomed … to know you are seen and worthy of kindness.

This week, as Avery and I drove up to her extracurricular activity, I felt a new feeling when I saw those women. As odd as it may sound, it was gratitude. I felt grateful they’d reminded me of one of life’s highest lessons. Author Kari Kampakis beautifully describes the concept of using people’s hurtful actions as opportunities for self-growth. She writes:

“Regardless of how anyone treats you, you stand to benefit. While some people teach you who youdowant to be, others teach you who youdon’twant to be. And it’s the people who teach you who you don’t want to be that provide some of the most lasting and memorable lessons on social graces, human dignity, and the importance of acting with integrity.”

The unkind treatment I received became a means to gain awareness, compassion, and connection. When I shared my story of rejection on my Facebook page, there were hundreds of comments and private messages—some quite painful—confirming the need to belong is unmet for many people in our society. In addition to those who shared their painful stories of exclusion, there were people who shared helpful actions and roles they’d taken to be an includer and make others feel welcome.

I was quickly reminded of the specific need our family had when we moved to a new state three years ago. On one of our first trips to the grocery store, we passed my daughters’ new school.

“I just hope I am not the only new kid in my class,” my older daughter said looking out the window. “I hope there is just one other new person.”

After a long pause, she repeated, “Just one.”

That had been my solitary prayer in the months leading up to the move … just one friend … just one kind friend for each of my girls. One person can instantly make you feel unalone, uninvisible … like you belong.

A few weeks later, my daughter met a girl at the neighborhood pool. They were the same age, going into the same grade, at the same school.

“This will be my first year there,” the girl said. “Maybe we’ll be in the same class.”

That’s when I saw the unmistakable look of relief on my daughter’s face.

One person can do that.

One person can take away months of angst in an instant.

That same week I had to take my car to the emissions station. It was a requirement in my new state. The woman working asked me if I had my new ID and registration.

“No,” I confessed. “That task is daunting to me because I am directionally challenged,” I laughed, but not really joking.

“Get a piece a paper,” she said. “I will give you directions to the place to go. It’s easy to get there and there’s never a line.” The woman proceeded to list off exactly what documents I would need. “They don’t mention all this on the website,” she added.

I looked down at the little note that revealed the ins and outs of an intimidating task, and I felt like I might cry. I could feel the goofiest smile on my face. As cars backed up behind us, it was no matter to woman. She wanted to make sure I had what I needed. And because of her, I was less scared to tackle this task. My angst was cut in half instantly. One person can do that.

A few days later, I made a wrong turn after leaving the store. My daughters and I ended up in a parking lot of a busy strip mall. There was a young mother holding a sign, her three young children sitting in on the curb next to her.

“I lost my job. Any spare change would be appreciated,” read my older daughter.

I pulled over and told my girls to grab some of the cereal, granola bars, and other snacks from our grocery bags. I got a little money from my purse. When the woman and I touched hands as I offered her the items, her eyes filled with tears. She said many people had driven past them, and we were the first to stop. The fact that we cared gave her hope.

One person can do that.

One person can give someone hope.

I know this, I absolutely know this, but how often I forget.

Life gets busy. Things get familiar. I get caught up in my own problems, etc. etc.

I nearly forget what I have the power to do until one Tuesday afternoon when I take my daughter to an activity, and I am reminded. I approach two women hoping for kindness, but I am met with rudeness.

And when it happens a second time, I start to feel bitter, so I ask myself how I can turn this into goodness, into love? And that’s when the words, “Remember this,” come out of my mouth.

I passed on the critical reminder to others not expecting to be flooded with the pain and wisdom of hundreds who’ve stood where I stood.

One of the most powerful responses came from a beautiful writer named Alexandra Rosas. She wrote,

“You didn’t know when you wrote that, but you were to be in my life today after I received the coldest shoulder when I greeted a group of women. You, I came home to you. You halved my pain and I halved yours: it’s together for each other that we find strength to ask, learn, and never fold up and disappear.”

It’s together for each other that we find strength to ask, learn, and never fold up and disappear.

If that’s not life’s highest lesson, I don’t know what is.

Let me remember it now, especially now, when the world’s collective pain is so deep, so wide, and so heavy.

But there is hope …

Because what we can do individually to heal the world’s collective pain is quite miraculous. We can half the pain by being one person’s person.

With one invitation, we can take someone
From outsider to insider
From outcast to beloved member
From unknown neighbor to coffee companion
From wallflower to life-of-the-party
From shortened life expectancy to 80 years of joy.

That last line is no exaggeration.

Dr. Dean Ornish, the founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, says this about the effects of loneliness“I am not aware of any other factor — not diet, not smoking, not exercise, not stress, not genetics, not drugs, not surgery — that has a greater impact on our incidence of illness, and chance of premature death.”

Never underestimate the power you hold as ONE PERSON to save the life of another.

“Come join us,” you’ll say with a smile.

And the recipient will sigh with relief … angst gone instantly … a world of pain cut in half.

One person can do that.

Rachel Macy Stafford is the New York Timesbestselling author of Hands Free Mama,Hands Free Lifeand Only Love TodayRachel, a certified special education teacher, recently released a free eBook called: The Positivity Remedy. The stories and small-step strategies Rachel shares in this book have the potential to soften your inner and outer voice, change your perspective, and heal broken bonds. The tools in this book provide what Rachel believes is most vital to creating a positive home and unified world, and that is hope, hope in who you already are and hope for who you can become. Click here to get The Positivity Remedy. For greater support and guidance, join Rachel for her new online course, SOUL SHIFT. Through short videos, small habit shifts, and inspiring intentions, Rachel will take you step-by-step through the process she used to become a present and joyful participant of her life. Enter your email address here to be notified when SOUL SHIFT registration opens in April at a discounted price. Please join Rachel and her supportive community, The Hands Free Revolution, for daily inspiration and community.

How to Handle Poor Grades and other disappointments

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How Should We Respond to Poor Grades? - Dr. Charles Fay

One of the most common questions I’m asked by parents and educators is how to respond to bad grades.
 
The first thing to remember is that the child’s report card is the child’s… not ours. While it’s easy to get down on ourselves when kids perform poorly, it’s very important to our mental health and theirs to remember the following:

We can’t learn for kids.

 As educators and parents we can up the odds of high achievement by modeling responsibility, establishing a safe and calm environment, providing excellent instruction and demonstrating excitement for learning.

We can’t control every action they take or decision they make.

 Secondly, it’s comforting to remember that some of the world’s most successful people have struggled with grades. Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, Jim Fay and Dr. Foster Cline are some notable examples. What’s most important is that our children develop good character, curiosity, and problem-solving skills.

Many highly successful people struggled with grades as children.

 Thirdly, if we can consistently demonstrate empathy rather than anger or frustration, the odds of them overcoming their difficulties dramatically increase. Is empathy really that powerful? Yes indeed! In fact, a growing body of research is demonstrating that warmth (i.e., empathy) is strongly correlated with higher achievement and better behavior. (If you like reading research studies: Rivers, Mullis, Fortner & Mullis, 2012 and Silt, Hughes, Wu & Kwock, 2012.)

So… let’s remember to respond with sincere love and concern:

Oh man. I bet these grades are really disappointing for you. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help. The good news is that this doesn’t change the way I feel about you.

Rather than fighting with kids about their grades, consider studying, From Bad Grades to a Great Life! If it doesn’t completely change your life, I’ll buy it back.

Rivers, J., Mullis, A., Fortner, L., & Mullis, R. (2012). Relationships Between Parenting Styles and the Academic Performance of Adolescents. Journal of Family Social Work, 15, 202–216, Spilt, J., Hughes, J., Wu, J. & Kwock, O. (2012) Dynamics of Teacher–Student Relationships: Stability and Change Across Elementary School and the Influence on Children’s Academic Success Child Development, 83 (4), 1180–1195

Kids & Christmas

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Basic parenting through the Christmas season can be a real minefield. Sometimes the kids start being greedy, sometimes things that you wanted to be special aren’t even noticed. Sometimes no one wants to sing Christmas carols around the dinner table.

Not Exactly a Catalog Shot

Christmas comes to the real families of this real world. Often, it doesn’t look like a catalog shot, but more like a blooper reel. Turkeys burn. Gravy clots into lumps. Presents that you thought came with batteries didn’t. You end up presenting someone’s gift in a garbage bag. Kids might get grabby around the Christmas tree. People might not like the gift you thought they would like, and they can even be too tired to pretend. Headaches know no seasonal bounds. Life happens.

This is why we have all heard people talk about Christmas like we all just need to get a grip. Where has our spirituality gone that we are worrying about a holiday five weeks in advance? Real Christians would celebrate quietly around the fire with some spiritual reflections, perhaps some small handmade token, or just a loving smile. There would have been no stress in that Christmas, only calm. There would be a sensibly portioned meal with no excess of pie or fudge or stray cookie platters. There would be some restraint. What are we really teaching our children about holy days? And why are we apparently so willing to float down the raging stream of our consumerist culture?

The Earth-Shaking Magic

I certainly support the variety of traditions that people use to celebrate Christmas, but there is one very important part of Christmas that is all too often overlooked, and it applies to everyone. Brace yourselves. . . .

Christmas is the ultimate celebration of the material. Because Christmas is the time when God became man. Word to Flesh. Unfettered spirit to the hazards and joys and stresses of physical life. Think about it. Some people want to filter the material out of Christmas and morph it into some pure ethereal spirit religious day. And some people want to filter all the spiritual out of it and make it simply a holiday celebrating the purchasing power of plastic. But the power of Christmas is when spiritual and material meet. And it always has been. That is the joy of the season, that is the good news, that is the laughter and the paradox and the earth-shaking magic of Christmas. The infinite Word became a physical baby.

It wasn’t like that first Christmas was a time of quiet reflection. Mary and Joseph were on a huge last-minute trip. And she’s big pregnant on a donkey? Think of it. It sounds like the worst travel experience of all time. No room. No bed. No privacy. Baby coming. Not just any baby either — one Mary knew was the Messiah. Angels? Shepherds dropping in? You think she felt dressed for that? I doubt Mary had time to throw together a cheese platter. She was in a barn, forced to place the King of kings — her Lord — in a trough. And I doubt her livestock roommates were quite as cute as they look in the storybooks.

The truth is, that’s what it’s like when the Spiritual becomes Material. When God became Man. It’s not easy, because it turns the world upside down, a true cataclysm of joy.

If We Lose Sight

Our celebrations aren’t supposed to be smooth, effortless bits of quiet either. They should be as big and as glorious and as spiritual and as physical as we can make them.

Clearly, the attitude with which everything is done is important. If the house is full of physical holiday cheer, but Mom is yelling about the snow boots by the door, the blending has not been complete. If Christmas dinner turns out beautifully, but no one wants to be together, something has gone wrong. But the remarkable thing is that doing it all wrong, having bad attitudes, and resenting the work will not affect the power of Christmas at all. The neighbors throwing money at their children and resenting each other will not slow down anything.

That first Christmas was enough for all time, and no amount of fussing from us about all the busy work will slow it down. We can give each other stink-eyes all day long, and the world will just go on being transformed. The only thing that we can actually damage by losing sight of the point of Christmas is our children.

We Are Christmas to Our Children

Because what we do on Christmas is an acted out statement of faith. To our children, we are Christmas. We are their memories. We are the story. We are acting out both the surprised shepherds in the fields with their problems and squabbles and regular lives, and also the heavenly host that came to them singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men.”

We can’t stop being the shepherds this side of glory, and God doesn’t want us to. He wants us to be the shepherds the whole way through that story. Listening, fearing, following, worshipping. We are bringing our children alongside us as we come in out of our worldly fields, smelling like sheep, to fall at the feet of an infant king in a trough, beside livestock and an exhausted teenaged mother. This is what Christmas is all about. So stay up past twelve making fudge, and do it laughing. Revel in the candy-cane carnage and sap and shopping and crunchy pine-needles in the carpet. Show your children that we serve the Word made Flesh.

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Rachel Jankovic (@lizziejank) is a wife, homemaker, and mother. She is the author of Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches and Fit to Burst: Abundance, Mayhem, and the Joys of Motherhood. She and her husband Luke have six children.

Devotion(s)

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Spiritually Fit 

Many students have been getting in shape for Fall Sports.  The earlier they started, the better.  The same is true for young Jesus disciples headed back to school.  Who will become their new best friend?  What media will be the subject of conversation?  How will your student navigate new choices?  The older they get the more independent they should become--independent of you as they become dependent on God. 

Daily Bible reading, meditation and prayer are exercises and drills which bring future success in spiritual fitness.  Hearing from God is what must become their greatest treasure and value.  This is possible with intentionality, effort and teamwork. There is great reward.

Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." John 14:21

How does one begin a devotional habit? Some will take Proverbs and read daily the chapter with the same number as the day of the month.  Others will follow a devotional like "My Daily Bread”.  The computer or phone app YouVersion has many reading plans and ways to share your insights with others.  I like the practice Pastor Steve has mentioned he and Eli do--text each other each day a verse they read and what God is saying to them through it.

Set a time and place, choose a reasonable amount of time to start out with...maybe 10 or 15 minutes and follow with prayer.  Start somewhere and if you miss a day, just pick up where you left off.  Sharing with another person will be a great relationship builder--a true friendship maker.  You may not see or recognize the forward progress, but you are laying up for the future. When a big day where your faith is tested comes, you will have spiritual fitness to equal the task. Your relationship building with God will pay off.

At what age does one begin this?  Well--being able to read or sit still long enough to be read-to would be the place to start. The big game may be the 1st day of school.   ~Pastor Andy