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Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Desire to be Known and Loved

Having worked with and around children for a several years now, I have an observation I've been pondering for quite some time.

A few years ago, the Pastor at the parish where I am employed went to visit the Kindergarten class. They had some questions to ask him; simple but VERY important things that told them all they needed to know about him, such as, "What is your favorite color?"  "What is your favorite animal?" "What is your favorite sport?". There were more, of course, but those questions told the children all that was important about Father as a human being. They were relational questions.

You see, the children already loved and respected Father but they wanted to know things about him to which they could relate. It was of IMMENSE importance that they learn about his favorite color, animal, and sport  to see if those things were also THEIR favorite things!

Of course, each time Father answered a question, all of the children would pipe up with THEIR favorite things and start telling him all kinds of stories about their own favorite colors, animals (pets!) and sports, and naturally, that required them to expound greatly in detail.

Father, being  a very organized sort, had a very difficult time getting a word in edgewise and left that particular class session just a little rumpled in spirit.

I remember him telling me about this and all I could do was laugh at the mental image. "Father, they just want to make sure you know them as well as they know you!"

This is what I've been pondering for so long. Yes, it's clear to anyone that the children wanted him to know them and that they wanted to know more about him. But why?

The answer is simple:  Love. 

Think about it. This is "Human Nature 101".  When we love someone, we want to be known by them. Maybe we already know them or think we do, but it becomes of the utmost importance to also be known. To be recognized. To identify with them on some level. To be loved back.

This is the foundation of friendship. First it is superficial (identifying with another on favorite ie superficial  things) and then it goes deeper. Before it can go deeper, though, one must learn about things specific to that person and help that person recognize things that are specific to us as individual human beings.

Because I am an adult employee in a church, and therefore must lead many events and come into contact with many youth volunteers, sometimes I become the focus of a particular need. When one of our youth come to me for direction on a project or offer to work with me, even if I'd rather handle that particular thing alone and delegate them elsewhere, I have learned to let them help in some way. It might be painting a decorative mural for the wall for Vacation Bible School. . It might be asking them to carry this little box of pens (that I could handle myself just fine)  to that location. It might be just to be patient and answer their various questions about the simplest or most unrelated things. It might be just to listen and encourage an interest in a particular subject.

In the end, their questions and their tales about themselves and their families (from age 5 or younger on up to teens!) isn't about the event at hand. It is rather a simple request from one human being to another:  "Please recognize me. Please love me and let me tell you what I want you to love about me and how God made me!"

What I've noticed especially is that children love to talk. When they have learned to trust adults in their lives, they reveal everything. They latch on to their favorite people and tell them as many tales as they can about everything they know. They try to imitate that adult (or teen, even!). They will reveal their very souls and all this is really just an elaborate way for one human to connect with another. To say, "Please love me as much as I already love you!"

This behavior doesn't end with childhood; it's part of what adults do every day, too, although the form it takes is much more refined. 

Do you know why it's so hard to get volunteers for ANY given event, and why some need a personal phone call? Because a general call for volunteers isn't enough for some people. They need a little extra "I love you and know you so I'm calling you personally to take on this task."

We live in a world of broken families; families that have bourne children, now adults, in need of love that a shattered family simply couldn't provide when it was most necessary in their individual formation.. When a child comes to you and shares their heart, be open to them. Smile, even if you are sad about something. Smile, even if you are angry or stressed out. Take a moment  to enjoy the happiness of a child who is expressing that they love you and love you so much they want you to love them, too.

Do the same thing with adults because they, too, are the children they have always been, and they, too, are looking for someone to love them and to know them for who they are as fellow children of God.

As with young children, know when to encourage, know when to correct, know when to discipline. Human relationships can be very complicated, but everything comes down to one simple thing:

 What does the sacrifice that is true love for another human being, knowing they have been called to life with Christ for eternity, demand of you right now? 

And pray...

Pray for Our Lord to help you discern that answer in union with His Most Sacred and Merciful Heart!


Rae said...

Thank you for this simple and beautiful reflection. I've just added it to my list of "favorite blog posts." I just started a new job at an assisted living home, and I often find myself wondering why this or that person does what they do. I think I will remember your words often!

Adoro said...

Thank you, Jesus!

My own prayer is to help me see everyone as children so that I can respond gently and keep my temper at bay. I don't get angry with children, but do with adults...and shouldn't.

Melanie Bettinelli said...

So true. We all want to be known and loved.

I love what you say about letting children help. Sometimes what they really need is to feel useful.

And about making specific requests of people instead of general calls for volunteers. My brother-in-law was miffed yesterday because despite the fact that he has an "open invitation" to all their friends to come use the pool any time, no one came over on one of the hottest days of the summer. But people want to feel like they are personally invited, wanted. They need to feel welcomed. An open invitation doesn't make people feel loved.

Adoro said...

Ah, Melanie! That's a whole different monster!

You say it sincerely, but the reality is this: no one comes to just hang out at someone's pool without an invite. EVERYONE but the most uncouth (think National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation) just show's up at someone's house to enjoy their amenities.

It's one thing to give a general call to volunteers to help with a parish event. That event belongs to everyone as the parish is the home of everyone.

It's another thing to say, "Stop over any time and enjoy our pool!".

No, that last requires a specific invite. That's your family one is going there without something personal. I know I wouldn't. I would consider such an invite as an invitation to friendship, but not to literally stopping by wearing a floatie and carrying a towel.

I grew up with people who would say, "Look me up if you're in town!" because it was the friendly thing to say. I even heard that from people from Columbia (the country), although the latter made sure I understood it was the typical redneck invite that wasn't really literally intended.

Get what I mean? (not calling you a redneck. Not that part. That just applies to MN trailer trash like me)

Adoro said...

Correction on the above post. "Show's" should read "shows" No apostrophe.

Jose said...

Hey, Adoro! Greetings from Rio de Janeiro! I hope all is well with you these days. Excellent post as always!