As I drive down the country roads in my town during the morning hours, I see children standing by the road waiting for their school buses. The younger ones look tiny and scared in their bulky backpacks. The older ones try to look nonchalant as they face the stresses that the new school year will bring.
My heart gives a lurch and I always pray the same prayer over each one of them: “Lord, please … give them a friend.”
No matter what issues each of us dealt with in school, we probably had one thing in common: even having just one friend could make everything seem better. A crabby teacher was tolerable if you could roll your eyes at each other. An embarrassing moment wasn’t so bad if you and your friend could laugh about it later. Almost anything could be handled if you had the company of a good friend.
I couldn’t force anyone to be friends with my children, of course. So, I did the next best thing. I spent a large amount of time teaching them to be good friends to others. In fact, they couldn’t leave the house without me yelling friendship advice at them.
“Remember, this is her party! She gets to be the center of attention!”
“Really listen to your friends and ask them how you can help!”
My kids got to the point where they would simultaneously chant my words back at me, roll their eyes and say, “We know! You’ve told us this a thousand times!”
But, here’s the thing, empathy is taught, it is not inherent. And, believe it or not, my top priority was not to give my children high self-esteem, it was to teach them to care about others’ feelings. To me, that was so much more valuable!
If you read Angela’s: Letter to my Son on His First Day of School last week you saw that this is important to her as well. It warms my heart to see young parents instilling empathy into their children. It gives me hope for the future.
And so, as I drive by the kids on the side of the road, I worry about them. I wonder if anyone taught them how to be a good friend or if anyone taught their classmates the “friendship rules’. Are they feeling alone or do they have a few good friends to ease their burden?
Short of climbing on the bus and going to school with them, there is not much I can do except ask my Father to give them a friend and of course pray that all these little ones find their way to the greatest friend a kid could have … Jesus.