“The soul is healed by being with children.” — Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The idea for “kids club” emerged a very short thirteen years ago when my youngest daughter was in the second grade. The two of us were driving somewhere when she innocently asked if I might study the Bible with her sometime, which was crazy embarrassing since I was, in fact, a preacher. Yes, sweetie, that could be arranged.
But before we even made it to wherever we were driving the innocent question had transformed into a fully-developed plan for a weekly kids club for elementary school children at our church where we not only studied the Bible but also went on adventures and hosted interesting guests. We went to the Ruskin Oak (pictured above). We wandered around an old cemetery. We went to the fire station where everyone got to blast the fire hose, and we hosted a police officer where everyone got cuffed and stuffed. We listened to sweet Ms. Josephine tell sobering stories of growing up black in Jim Crow Mississippi. It was inspiring and sweet and good.
Well, I’m a preacher again and am giving kids club another whirl. We recently launched Kids Club 2.0 with a short Bible study and a visit from amazing art students from Pepperdine, and the next week we hosted a brilliant plant physiological ecologist (look it up) who took us on a nature walk. It has been awesome. I am nearly overwhelmed by the indescribable wealth of potential guests at my disposal here in the heart of a university campus.
But possibly the biggest change from 1.0 to 2.0 is that we typically had 6-8 kids attend in Mississippi while we had triple that number at our first get-together in Malibu! That just triples the fun! (But thankfully I have a fantastic assistant/photographer this time around.)
Dr. Seuss reminded us that a person is a person no matter how small, but those of us not directly responsible for such little persons may forget the great benefits that come from investing time in kids. I know that I did. But I’m sure glad to be back in the fun again.
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” — Frederick Douglass
PC: Annie Little
Posted in Original Essays
Tagged annie little, children, church of christ, dr seuss, frederick douglass, fyodor dostoyevsky, kids, kids club, malibu, mississippi, ocean springs, ruskin oak
“[T]he task of the first half of life is to create a proper container for one’s life and answer the first essential questions: ‘What makes me significant?’ ‘How can I support myself?’ and ‘Who will go with me?’ The task of the second half of life is, quite simply, to find the actual contents that this container was meant to hold and deliver. As Mary Oliver puts it, ‘What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’”
– Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life
Richard Rohr’s description of two halves of life in Falling Upward has me interested in emerging from the locker room for the second half. We shall see. Since the first half is so much about achievement and success, the transition is surely difficult to wrap my brain around. It is much easier to try to be someone than to actually be someone.
As I struggled over the summer just to imagine such a thing, I tried to remember myself as a child before I boarded the train to Achievement Town. What did I enjoy back then? What did I love? What made me smile? What would I do just for the joy of it all? Well, one of the primary answers was sports, so I made the calculated decision to be a huge Pepperdine Waves fan this year.
I haven’t been a very good Waves fan in recent years. This is my third year to serve as volunteer chaplain for the cross country team (see proud team picture above), but I have been a sporadic fan at best for the other sports on campus. My excuse was that I was just too busy, but “too busy” is undoubtedly the sort of thing you say when you are stuck in first half of life thinking.
The thought that got me was that if you had told “Little Al” that I/he would one day live on an amazing university campus with a fantastic NCAA Division I program fielding seventeen teams and would have open access to watch all of them in action, that would have sounded like heaven. And I am too busy? Give me a break. Literally.
I am off to a great start so far. I have been there in person to cheer on our cross country, soccer, volleyball, and water polo teams in the last few weeks – with many more teams to cheer on soon.
Being a sports fan is surely not the point of or secret to life. But for me, it just may be the secret to remind me not to be too busy to enjoy it.
Our youngest daughter started middle school when we moved from Mississippi to Malibu in 2008 and needed certain shots to enroll in school, (make up your own jokes friends from Mississippi and California, but be nice!) so we went to a local urgent-care facility and waited. There in the waiting room I met a super-friendly Pepperdine student who was the incoming president of the College Republicans at Seaver College. He excitedly shared with me his plan to place a large American flag on the magnificent front lawn of Pepperdine University for every life lost in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. He said it was going to be awesome. I was impressed by both his initiative and enthusiasm.
He delivered. The display was such a success that Pepperdine immediately latched on to the idea, and this year marks the tenth consecutive year for the breathtaking “waves of flags” display.
Walking among the flags is an experience in and of itself, not to mention a photographer’s dream in the Age of Instagram, but my favorite thing to do is to watch the first responders and the veterans park their fire trucks and motorcycles on the iconic Pacific Coast Highway and walk up the hill to take in the experience. They are far more inspiring to watch than the flags themselves.
In the early years, someone had the proper idea to place flags of other nations among the American flags to represent the correct nationalities of the victims of the attacks on that fateful day. After all, the attacks were acts of aggression against the entire world. International students and guests to campus are happy to find their flag and yet sobered by the reminder of the loss that flag represents.
We still remember that terrible day. In a year or two, incoming college students will remind us that they were not alive in the fall of 2001, but as of today the flags are still flying and those of us who remember still share our stories.
President Abraham Lincoln predicted that the world would soon forget what he said that historic Thursday afternoon in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, but elementary school children still memorize his speech over 150 years later. Some things are simply unforgettable.
Posted in Original Essays
Tagged 9-11, abraham lincoln, college republicans, first responders, flags, gettysburg address, malibu, memories, pacific coast highway, pch, pepperdine, remember, september 11, united states, usa, veterans, waves, waves of flags
We sang a cute little song in church when I was a child about rains coming down, floods coming up, and houses that went splat. The splat was easily the most fun part of the song, but when I experienced that reality as an adult it was far less entertaining. Victims of Hurricane Harvey are facing that same reality today.
My hurricane experience came at the same time of year as Harvey, and it was Labor Day weekend when the first large group of heroes arrived to give us hope. I suspect that has been the same experience for many in Texas.
We only had a few negative encounters in the aftermath of the storm. Like a group bringing a personal photographer to document their own kindness. And like another insisting that we needed their massive clothing donation immediately even though we had no homes, much less closets. Oh, and every encounter with every level of government and insurance company was its own disaster.
But the biggest flood of all was the beautiful flood of kindness from individuals and churches from all over the world. It was overwhelming in the very best way, and it was our salvation.
So I have two pieces of advice to share from personal experience:
First, although “news” is ever-changing by definition, remember that the needs will not go away quickly. Join in for the long haul. I love the first responders so much. And I have a unique respect for those who still came months later.
Second, give freely. Find an organization or individual that you trust, and then trust them. The victims know what they need. Listen first. Respond second.
Losing everything in a hurricane is in retrospect, but only in retrospect, a strangely wonderful time in the history of our family due to the love that we witnessed and received. I pray that many in Texas will be able to look back with similar fondness someday.