Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Rhiannon's Gift

Good Evening!
It is a bit late for me to be telling this story,
but I say, "Better late than never!"

As I've mentioned before,
I was Site Coordinator 
for the YMCA Before & After Care Program 
at Concordia Lutheran School
for the 2012-2013 school year.
I am not exaggerating when I completely enjoyed it!
Was every day perfect? No.
Were the kids perfect? No.
Was I perfect? DEFINITELY NOT!
But no matter the circumstance, every day brought it's own joy.
Honestly, that's one of the reasons I work with children.
Even when I'm overwhelmed and stressed to the max,
a hug from a child makes me believe I can make it one more day
But this post, this story, isn't about me or even Concordia as a whole.
It is a about a very special little girl 
who had a great big impact on my life: Rhiannon.

To begin, I will tell you a little bit about Rhiannon.
She is a very smart little lady
(in more ways than one!).
For being a first grader, she is an excellent reader!
On many occasions during homework time, 
her sweet voice would work it's charm on my listening ears.
She has an infectious laugh
and being silly is one of her favorite pastimes. 
Rhiannon is a very caring person.
She doesn't like to see people picked on 
or overlooked or feeling sad.
And that includes adults.
More than once, she "checked" on me 
to make sure I wasn't sad.
Like I said, she is a very special little lady.

Anyone who works with children can tell you that after a while, 
you tend to stop looking at children as individuals
and instead see your class/group as a whole.
In general, I try not to do this
but like everyone else, I'm not perfect
and I'm a afraid I did this a bit with Rhiannon 
particularly in the beginning of the school year.
I didn't neglect her by any means,
but I didn't pay close attention to the little details that made her...her.
I had a class of 20+ students
and she wasn't a trouble-maker,
so I lumped her together with the other "easy-to-care-for" kiddos
and went on with my work.
However, at Christmas time...that ALL CHANGED.
 
Our classroom Christmas Theme was "Believe"
inspired in part by one of the kids' favorite movies:
The Polar Express.
(Who am I kidding? It's one of MY favorite movies! Lol!
If you haven't seen it, you are missing out!!!!)
Anyway, our decorations and projects 
centered around "Believing". 
Believing in the Real Reason for the Season.
Believing in the Magic of Christmas.
For the younger ones, Believing in Santa.
Believing in ourselves and each other.
Just Believing.
("Don't stop believin'! Hold on to that feelin'!"...sorry, got a little sidetracked there...)

That theme took on an even deeper meaning
when I received a Christmas gift from Rhiannon.
Here is another "secret" from childcare providers:
kids/parents give great holiday gifts! :)
I received quite a few nice presents from my kiddos:
gift cards from Starbucks and McDonalds,
a stationary set,
oodles of handwritten cards
(handwritten cards are the BEST!)
and pictures, but none of my other gifts
could even BEGIN to compare with Rhiannon's.

It was in a shiny green box that
reminded me of a Chinese take-out container.
It was light as a feather
(at first, I thought it might be empty).
But when I opened it,
I found hundreds of small strips of brightly colored paper.
To say the least, I was little confused.
I pulled out one of the papers and read what was written on it.
Then I read it again...
'cause honestly, I wasn't sure if I had read it correctly the first time.
I teared up on the third read.

The scraps of paper contained a verses of Scripture.
Promises from God's Word.
365 of them...one for each day of the year.
But the best part is that Rhiannon and her mom
had personalized each verse for me.
I will give you an example:
"You are precious and honored in my sight, Miss Sarah, and I love you." Isaiah 43:3
It was the same with each scrap of paper:
A promise from God's Word directed exclusively to me.
Rhiannon's gift wasn't just a Christmas gift to me.
It was a gift to my entire life.

There are days that I feel so low
all I want to do is bury my head under my covers and sob,
but instead I go to the shiny green box and I pull out
one of God's Promises for me and I feel better.
One that I pulled out earlier today reads,
"Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it?
I am making a way for you, Miss Sarah,
in the desert and streams in the wasteland."
Isaiah 43:18
Rhiannon's Gift continues to bless me everyday.
But at the time I received it,
it opened my eyes.
Personalization of Scripture (the act of writing yourself into Scripture) is powerful.
It changes your perspective on God.
You begin to notice God's handiwork in your life 
where before you didn't see anything.
Little coincidences, little details start to make sense.
I know this from prior experience as well as from Rhiannon's Gift.
Once upon a time, my beloved cousin 
gave me a "homework" assignment of personalizing Psalm 23.
It completely changed my view of God.
Rhiannon's Gift changed my view of...life in general.
It inspired a revolutionary thought: 
"If writing myself into Scripture made me more detail oriented to God things, 
then maybe 'writing myself' into the lives of those around me 
would make more detail oriented about those I hold near and dear."
(Yes, occasionally, I have schizophrenic-like thoughts...but, hey, I got a God-Moment out of it!)
What I mean is "If I become more actively involved in my loved ones' lives,
I will be better quipped to appreciate their own unique qualities."
I decided to try it out...on Rhiannon and the other kiddos in my class
(they became my own little experiment).

Since this story is about Rhiannon, I will only tell you how the experiment worked with her.
I watched her carefully over the remainder of the school year.
I made a genuine effort to show her I was interested in her life.
I would ask her how school was and not let her leave it at "Good".
That's when I started noticing how smart she was.
At the beginning of the week,
I would ask her if she did anything fun over the weekend.
The way she spoke about her weekend activities 
brought her sweet, caring nature into view.
I encouraged it by asking her to help me with the younger kids in the class.
She readily agreed.
I wish I had time to REALLY tell you about her,
but this post is too long as it is...and I still need to tell the ending!

In the early part of this year,
Rhiannon's mom approached me to let me know
that this would be Rhiannon's last year at Concordia.
Their family was planning a move to Oklahoma in the summer of 2013.
Naturally, this saddened me, but at the same time
I felt that this was exactly what God had planned for them.
The remainder of the year, I continued my little experiment
and was continually surprised and please with what I learned.
As the Spring days grew longer and longer,
I knew I needed to start working on my goodbye gift to Rhiannon.
Her Christmas gift did, and still does, mean the world to me.
I wanted to be able to give her something that would have similar meaning for her.
But what?
Then I stumbled upon an idea on Pinterest...and completely fell in love with it!
It was EXACTLY what I was looking for.
I decided to write Rhiannon a series of "Letters for Every Occasion".
I decided to write seven of them...
one for each year of her life.
Here's what I came up with:

The school year ended and summer began.
I attended Rhiannon's Goodbye party and her mom thanked me for the gift.
I received one last hug from Rhiannon
and then she was gone...
gone to her new life, her new start in a new place with new friends.
I may never know if my gift to Rhiannon actually meant anything to her.
She may never even give me another thought.
But that's okay...I will ALWAYS remember her.
Rhiannon's Gift changed my life for the better
and I will ALWAYS be grateful.
I love and miss you, Rhiannon!
I hope you enjoying your summer in your new home!
I hope you have made lots of new friends!
I believe in you!
Love, Miss Sarah D.

Thank you for reading!