The Influence of a Child

When’s the last time a child influenced you in a meaningful way?

I’m not talking about the “Adorable!”, “Grandma’s gotta have a picture of that!”, cutesy kind of way.  I’m talking about a child, simply by being who they are, reaching deep down into the core of your being and stirring something profound inside of you, a movement powerful enough to fuel passion that changes the way you think, act, or feel.

I remember a time when Hannah, my ten-year-old, bounded down the basement stairs and found me with slumped shoulders and downcast countenance, staring at my beloved craft corner.  The once-inviting studio bore what visually appeared like the aftermath of a grenade attack, its basic structure still in tact but the remaining clutter tossed violently askew.

Disheveled stacks laid atop the “Creation Station”, a lovely table, intended for the arts of painting and sewing, it now served for sorting and filing.  Boxes of mementos and crafts crammed together beneath it, and bits of this and that – markers, paper scraps, fabric squares, glue sticks, etc. – lay scattered about every remaining surface area.

“What’s wrong, Mom?”

In a rare moment of discouragement, I blurted out, “I feel so disorganized.”

Hannah briefly surveyed the situation and then returned her gaze to me, smiling.  “But, Mommy, that doesn’t mean you are disorganized.  Look at the rest of the basement!”

My mouth fell open.  I obeyed her kind directive and surveyed the oversized plastic containers  of toys and activities.  My eyes took in the household supply racks, freshly sanitized foam tiles, and the multi-bin organizer of homeschool supplies and activities.  Even the play kitchen held a brimming plastic food basket, carefully placed appliances, and neatly stacked plates and cups.

I grinned as I wrapped my arm around her.  “Thanks, Sweetheart.  I needed that.”

Her gracious encouragement inspired me in many ways.  It reset my perspective.  It fueled my determination to get the job done.  It also reminded me of the importance of separating feelings from truth and not allowing those misconceptions to shape my identity.

Just because I felt disorganized didn’t mean it was true.

In that moment, I realized that Hannah had spoken to me the very words she longed to hear when her room is messy, revealing how much she values encouragement when she’s feeling disorganized.  Not a lecture, not bossy directives birthed from parental frustration.

The entire interaction grew me as a parent, and I had my sweet daughter to thank for it.  Thank you, Hannah, for being who you are and for reminding me what’s true, what’s important, and how to best encourage you during the challenges you encounter.

Thank you for making a positive impact on me, both as a person and a parent.

Thank you for being a wonderful leader.

What if we as adults realized and helped develop the great potential within every child to lead and influence others in powerful ways – not only when they grow up, but also – today?

I had the privilege of attending TEDx Morristown yesterday and hearing my friend, Dr. Yvonne Bleam, give a wonderful presentation (which will be online in roughly six weeks) about encouraging leadership at an early age.

The influence of a child can prove powerful when coupled with the careful cultivation of loving adults attuned to the value every person can give.  Dr. Bleam has written an outstanding book titled A-Z of Being the Best Leader You Can Be:  Leading Through the Alphabet, which gives parents and teachers an effective tool that encourages children to pursue leadership in everyday settings and circumstances.

Each chapter focuses on a different character quality and tells a story that every kid can relate to, even the quiet and shy, the unlikely leader.  For example, Quinn, the quiet listener, leads by listening to the teacher while other kids are talking and hearing the assignment that’s due the following day.

Whether used at home, school, or church, A-Z of Being the Best Leader You Can Be gives a message of hope and well explains how kids can influence others – even adults – by simply making good choices.  Questions and activities at the end of each chapter drive each character trait home and provide fodder for good conversation, enabling kids to think through their responses to particular situations.

Dr. Bleam is the perfect one to write this book because she leads by example.  I’ll never forget one particular time when she and her husband, Brian,  reached out to my family.  We were in the thick of a traumatic season of life, constantly gasping for air and desperate for reprieve.  When Yvonne caught wind of it, she invited us over for dinner.  The entire Bleam Family blessed us that night, listened to us, fed us, encouraged us to press on through some of our darkest moments.

What especially impressed me that night was the way the Bleam children, Hunter and Brooke reached out to my little Hannah (only about four years old at the time).  Because most of her remembered life experience centered around her brother’s nearly fatal birth, visits to the hospital, and his home health needs, Hannah didn’t know how to be, how to act, or what all of this over for dinner “thing” was even all about.

Long before the book was birthed, Brian and Yvonne had done a great job encouraging leadership traits with their own kids, and it was evident by the way both Hunter and Brooke did an amazing job of entertaining Hannah that night.  They exhibited grace and compassion through the gentle way they spoke to her, played with her, and did their best to make her comfortable in their home.  Their kindness evidenced a maturity beyond their years.

Little moves me more than kindness given to my suffering child.

Thank you, Hunter and Brooke, for leading through your thoughtful words and actions that showed compassion to my hurting little girl.  You may not have known until today how much that evening meant to us.

To me, an adult.

Thank you, Brian and Yvonne, for being faithful friends through the storms of life and for raising your children in a way that brings tremendous blessing to others.

Thank you, Yvonne, for creating a practical resource that ignites and inspires the hearts of young leaders to make choices that influence others in a positive way.  Thank you for making it easy and enjoyable, meaningful and lasting.  Thank you for investing in the future of our homes, our community, our world.

Thank you for the sacrifice you and your family have made in order to lead us all to sow into the lives of others.

I look forward to using A-Z of Being the Best Leader You Can Be: Leading Through the Alphabet with my kids.  Hannah got a jumpstart – she’s halfway through the book already.

I caught John on the sofa with it this morning, pen in hand.  Methinks I need another copy!

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