I will never forget the first time I met her. Her skin was like leather, her hands were delicate and her heart was the biggest I had ever come in contact with. I was 7. My father started going to this new church on the main street of our small community. The church could of easily been mistaken for a house had your eye not caught the cross on the front top arch of the building. It smelled old. Really old. “Don’t you want to go down with all the other kids for childrens church?” My dad always got a little frustrated that I always wanted to sit up with the grownups and listen to the sermon’s. “No.” I replied most suredly. It was the best choice I ever made.
She was just an ordinary woman. She grew up here in my own hometown and she was so sensitive and sweet. This woman was passionate about her cause and I could not help but be raised to goosebumps when she showed slides upon slides of homeless, disabled and hurting children on the front wall. She was not ashamed to cry as she showed each child and gave their names and life stories. I followed suit quickly. I still remember the day as if it was just yesterday. I hope I never forget it.
At the end of the sermon the pastor gave an alter call for anyone who wanted prayer. I was always so unaware that I was a child. I know this is sad, and may be a little revealing as to what little childhood I had, but it was true. Nowhere in my mind did I think that alter call did not include me. So I quickly got up, there was no asking permission (I still forget to ask sometimes, and that is okay). I just shot right up and walked right down that middle aisle and stood right in front of my pastor.
I adored my pastor. He was so kind to me in past meetings and though I was very new to all this church stuff, I knew a good cause when I saw one. I mean I had been adopting neighborhood cats and feeding them secretly for years, I had experience. “And what do you need prayer for young lady?” He asked me. I flashed him my big blue tear streaked eyes and smiled so proudly and confidently. “I want to do what she does someday” I pointed quickly to the missionary woman who was praying over another couple. My pastor towered over me and then bent his top half to look me squarely in the eyes. “Well, that is a good heart you have, but some little girls are only meant to stay home and take care of their daddy’s.” (I will give you the reader a moment of silence to process that one, it took me years, but I trust you will catch on much quicker than I did). I was crushed. No really, I did not possess the words at the time to describe what I felt, but looking back I can now equate it with someone capturing a beautiful butterfly and then tearing its wings off. My tears turned from passion and tenderness and hopeful dreams to make a difference in the world, to bitter, hurtful and resentful tears. What made it worse is the “all knowing adults” in the front pew who heard this and started laughing. I glanced at the missionary woman and she was busy with the couple in front of her still. Inside I was screaming for her to turn her head: “Rescue me! Please tell them I am made for more! Tell them I am valid in my dream!”. But instead of connection she just moved away from me and on to another for prayer and encouragement. I hung my head and walked back to the pew and sat next to my father. He just looked ahead as if nothing had happened. I sat stiff next to him for the next 28 years of my life.
I am now a single mother of a wonderful little boy who is like me, a big dreamer. He dreams of making his own differences in the world someday too. I wish I had all the money in the world to make that happen for him, but I don’t. But what I do have is this vivid memory of how it felt to have my dreams quickly tore from me by the hands of ignorant people. Because of this, I now go head on to help encourage my son’s dreams. He longs to be a paleontoligst someday and discover a new species of dinosaur (oh and be a dad too – although he often openly questions how the two will fit together). You are darn right I go to the ends to make sure he has all the documentaries on dinosaurs and famous paleontoligsts. He even got a jr. paleontologist kit for Christmas and this summer a trip to an excavation site is in the works.
Do I know for certain that this is the path he will follow to the end? Of course not, but I do know that in coming alongside our children, encouraging them to dream out loud, really taking interest in their dreams we do alot more than fill a child with more hope, we are telling the child that they are important and valid and that we are there for them through thick and thin. We prepare them for their places in the world as adults, and most importantly we tell them that they matter.